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The team at the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) plans, supports and implements research projects, including evaluations, to ensure the continuous improvement of Aspect services. ARCAP researchers also collaborate in autism research studies with other autism researchers across Australia and internationally, and share the findings of their research through publications and presentations. The expertise of our research team encompasses autism specific education, interventions, assessment and inclusive practices.

Vicki Gibbs, M Clin Psych – Head of Research

Vicki Gibbs is a Clinical Psychologist and Head of Research at Aspect. Prior to her current role, Vicki was responsible for establishing Aspect’s first dedicated diagnostic assessment service and developing an Australian-first website aimed at assisting young Autistic people to navigate the transition from school to adult life. Vicki has presented at numerous conferences, workshops and training seminars in relation to autism assessment and has co-authored a number of published papers into autism assessment practices and the intersection between autism and the criminal justice system in Australia. Vicki is currently completing a PhD investigating victimisation experiences of Autistic adults.

Ru Ying Cai, BSc, BIS, GradCertEval, PhD – Postdoctoral Researcher

Ru has recently completed her PhD at La Trobe University with the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre, examining emotion regulation and mental health in youth and adults on the autism spectrum. Ru has also conducted research in autism on the topics of tertiary education, employment and financial wellbeing, presenting the findings from this research at national and international conferences and publishing in various international journals. At the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice, Ru's research is currently focussed on the Inclusive Banking project for Beyond Bank. Before her career in research, Ru worked in information technology as a project manager and IT auditor.

Abigail Love, BS, MS, PhD – Research Officer

Abigail (Abbey) is an educational psychologist with experience working as a teacher, advocate, and researcher. She completed her PhD at the University of Kentucky where her dissertation and advocacy work centred on educating first responders to better support their autistic community members. She has worked as a lecturer in inclusion in the international context, and has experience teaching school-aged students. In Australia, Abbey has most recently worked in education as a learning specialist focused on SWPBS and the education of students with challenging behaviour.

Mustafa Al Ansari, PhD, BASc (Hons 1) – Postdoctoral Researcher

Mustafa Al Ansari

Mustafa is a public health researcher who has completed his PhD at the University of Sydney investigating attitudes on alcohol in a post-conflict abstinent setting. He is also an investigator on an international health project looking at health and health services at the largest annual global mass gathering. Mustafa has more than five years’ experience in Indigenous Health and alcohol research, and has taught Population Health to MD students at the University of Sydney Central Clinical School.

Mustafa has presented his work at a number of international conferences including the World Congress on Public Health. As a widely travelled, multilingual former child refugee, he is passionate about refugee and minorities rights which drive him to be an active community member.

At the Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice, Mustafa is supporting the Aspect Research Priorities project and leading a new project aimed at understanding how to best support autistic people transitioning from home to independent living.

Heidi Merrington, PhD, BAppSc (OT), MPH – Research Officer

Heidi Coupland

Heidi is an experienced public health researcher whose work has focused on the health and wellbeing of people who inject drugs, as well as factors influencing their access to health and other services, particularly for those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities. She completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales, investigating hepatitis C prevention and treatment among Vietnamese, Lao and Cambodian-Australian people who inject drugs. Her most recent research has involved the development of a model of care for Substance Use in Pregnancy and Parenting Services and factors influencing linkage to hepatitis C care in different health service settings.

Heidi is also an occupational therapist who has worked in school, hospital and community settings in the United Kingdom and Australia. She is a Board member for the National Centre for Childhood Grief, a service that provides support for bereaved children and families, outreach support for schools and high-quality training and education in relation to death, dying and bereavement.

At Aspect, Heidi will conduct research in relation to Aspect Research Priorities and the lived experiences of twice exceptional adults in education, work, home and community.

Chris Edwards, BBus(Mgt), BBehavSc(Psych) Hons, PhD – Postdoctoral Researcher

Chris Edwards

Chris completed his PhD as part of the Early Years Behaviour Support Project (Autism CRC), with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). His research explored how tele-consultation as part of a professional development program could support rural and remote educators to promote inclusive practices. Chris has also worked as a disability support worker, behaviour support practitioner, and provided education and training as part of projects for healthcare and human services. Throughout these roles, he has supported people with a varying range of abilities across a diverse range of contexts. As part of ARCAP, Chris is supporting the “Should I disclose my autism?” and “Self-compassion and mental health” projects.

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