Debra Costley, Ph.D. is National Director, Aspect Practice, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). 

Debra is a special educator with almost thirty years of experience in special education teaching and research. Her Ph.D. was a policy analysis and evaluation of the introduction of a national curriculum in England and Wales and the impact of that intervention on children with learning difficulties. Debra has worked in special schools, further and higher education in the UK, USA, and in Australia.

Before joining Aspect she was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Warwick in the UK and has been involved in the management of a range of research projects with a focus on education and employment.

In her role as National Director, Aspect Practice at Aspect, Debra has responsibility for applied research across Aspect and the development of models of service delivery for young people and adults with an autism spectrum disorder.

Aspect is currently supporting thirteen CRC projects across three programs from early identification to transition to adulthood. Debra is also a conjoint Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Psychiatry at the University of New South Wales.

Debra will present in Symposium 10 on Day 3.

We Belong Too:  Dr Costley will present the findings from an Aspect research project that innovatively surveyed adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the higher functioning (HFA) end of the spectrum with the aim of developing a profile of their life experiences, aspirations and their future support needs.

The findings from this study demonstrate that adolescents with ASD aged between 12 and 17 years of age need more support in the school classroom, managing bullying and discrimination, coping with stress and making friends. The possible link between the lack of friends, the struggle to understand what is expected in the classroom and to complete class work and the reported anxiety and stress for this group of young people will be explored.

Also presenting in this Symposium:
Prof Ian Shochet
Damian Santomauro