Deakin Child Study Centre

The Deakin Child Study Centre (DCSC) is a multidisciplinary research centre with a focus on understanding neurodevelopment from the early years of childhood through to adolescence.

Through our research and dedication to translating science into practical outcomes, our ultimate goal is to enhance the lives of young people with neurodevelopmental disorders, helping them develop to their full potential.

Our focus

Established in 2013, the DCSC has rapidly grown with large-scale funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and our many philanthropic and industry partnerships. We focus on the early years of childhood through to adolescence, a time where children learn the pivotal skills to regulate emotions, interact with peers and develop a sense of self.

The Deakin Child Study Centre strives to reach the one in five children who have a disability, developmental challenge or vulnerability, to develop practical and sustainable evidence-based strategies. We include all children and create programs that are culturally sensitive and inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

We aim to see the meaningful participation of children with disability or developmental challenges through community-integrated interventions. We place a particular emphasis on providing these children with resources and support to enable meaningful participation and engagement in organised physical activities (OPAs); principally occurring in community settings consistent with the lives of the children and their families.

With a focus on developing child-centred interventions, we are dedicated to working with the community to ‘make the world fit for all kids’, where children of all abilities feel secure to thrive socially and emotionally. With access to community-based interventions complementing and enhancing best practice clinical care, our research and pilot studies have shown that children with disabilities and developmental challenges gain developmental, clinical and health benefits.

Download the DCSC brochure (PDF, 6.4MB)

Our research

Science made real.

Our aim is to provide the community with training and technological innovations connecting individuals, families and professionals to work together with a common goal: ensuring every child with a disability or developmental challenge has the best possible opportunity to reach their full developmental potential.We combine research, clinical expertise and technology with like-minded partners and peak bodies to create evidence-based, accessible and innovative resources.

Key Projects

AllPlay

AllPlay program (2016–2020)

AllPlay is a national project that aims to provide equal access to sport for children of all abilities, with research informed by young children living with disabilities, their families, coaches, and experts.

AllPlay seeks to create a culture of inclusion in sport by breaking down the systematic barriers faced by children with developmental challenges or disability so that they too can enjoy the physical, mental, and social development benefits of organised sport, and have increased opportunities to get involved.

AllPlay Footy

AllPlay Footy, the first initiative within AllPlay, is designed to support children with developmental challenges or disability to feel comfortable, engaged, and enjoy participating on the footy field. To understand the benefits of participating in organised sport such as NAB AFL Auskick at a young age for children with disability, this program will examine the physical, emotional, and social improvements in 5–12 year old children with a disability or developmental challenges using a pre-post study design, as well as a community survey.

Benefits will be investigated by comparing children involved in the NAB AFL Auskick program over this period with those who are not. Understanding the personal and family benefits of children with disability participating in organised sport will inform future evidence-based practice where sport such as NAB AFL Auskick may be prescribed from a young age to help aid the mental and physical development of these children.

The AllPlay Footy website and free companion app provide coaches, parents and clubs access to handy tips and information on making NAB AFL Auskick a safe and inclusive space for children who may have a developmental delay or disability. This project is led by the DCSC at Deakin University in partnership with the AFL and the NDIA, and research collaborators at Charles Darwin University, Perth’s Telethon Institute and The University of Melbourne.

AllPlay Footy is funded by Moose Toys ($1 million), Jonathan and Simone Wenig, and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) as part of an Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) National Readiness Grant. The Geelong Community Foundation has provided an additional $60,000 for the 2017–2019 period to support the development of cerebral palsy-specific resources for the AllPlay website.

AllPlay Footy/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (initially funded as the AllPlay BettaFooty program) (2017–2020)

AllPlay Footy/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is an evidence-based, culturally-tailored training program and toolkit to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities identify children with developmental challenges and enable them to participate in local NAB AFL Auskick football via the AllPlay program.

The NDIA has continued its support of the AllPlay program, providing 12 months of pilot funding for AllPlay BETTAFooty through an ILC National Readiness Grant of $493,917. Also previously having contributed to the development of the AllPlay Footy NAB AFL Auskick program, Moose Toys, AllPlay’s main philanthropic donor, has generously donated another $1 million over four years to support the ongoing development of the AllPlay Footy/Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program as a national initiative.

AllPlay Dance (2017–2018)

The AllPlay Dance program will bring the benefits of AllPlay to the dance community by providing evidence-based resources to enable participation of children and young people with disabilities in inclusive dance programs around Australia. AllPlay Dance is funded by the NDIA, with a $627,580 ILC National Readiness Grant.

AllPlay Learn (2018–2019)

Deakin University, in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Training, is proud to present the AllPlay Learn program.

This novel and innovative program aims to support inclusivity of children and young people with developmental challenges and disabilities in an education setting through the development of practical online evidence-based resources targeted at teachers as well as information for parents, children and the broader community.

Inclusive Sports program

The Inclusive Sports program aims to enable children of all abilities and disabilities to participate in sport together, and ultimately enjoy the physical, social, emotional and cognitive benefits of sport and recreation.


Generously funded by a grant of $400,000 from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) over one year, the Inclusive Sports program aims to enable children of all abilities to participate in sport together and ultimately enjoy the physical, social, emotional and cognitive benefits of sport and recreation. There are three components to this overall study: a desktop review, community survey and coaches inclusion program.


The desktop review aims to identify all sporting clubs in Australia for which there is freely available web-based material for parents that includes information about the club’s inclusion approach or the specific opportunities they provide for children with a disability. Findings will be used to develop an online directory of inclusive sporting organisations that are freely available for parents, children, coaches and clubs seeking inclusive sporting opportunities for children in Australia. The community survey aims to understand what parents, sporting coaches and children feel are the barriers and facilitators to inclusive physical activity programs for Australian children (aged 4–17 years) with a disability. Finally, the coaches inclusion program aims to provide tips and resources to coaches on how to support children of all abilities. This program will be derived from information on which practices facilitate the inclusion of diverse children.

Paradoxically, children living with disability or developmental challenges are often excluded from sport but are the most susceptible to the problems that sport and recreation address, such as lifestyle diseases, social isolation and mental illness. The Inclusive Sports program is designed to address this paradox.

Other Key Projects

  • Comparing the effect of non-invasive brain stimulation on different brain regions for reducing social symptoms in autism spectrum disorder (2017–2018)
    Funded by: NARSAD (Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation) – Independent Investigator Award
  • The development of the social brain in early childhood (2017–2021)
    Funded by: Australian Research Council – Future Fellowship
  • The neurobiological basis of motor impairment in developmental coordination disorder: Evidence for compromised mirror neuron activity? (2016–2017)
    Funded by: Deakin University – Faculty Research Development Grant
  • An investigation of neuroplasticity in autism spectrum disorder using brain stimulation and neuroimaging (2016–2017)
    Funded by: Deakin University – Faculty Research Development Grant
  • Calm Kids – does the treatment of anxiety in children with ADHD improve outcomes?: A large-scale randomised controlled trial (2016–2019)
    Funded by: NHMRC (National Health & Medical Research Council) – Project Grant
  • Sleeping sound with autism spectrum disorder – tailoring a brief sleep intervention for autism: A randomised controlled trial (2016–2019)
    Funded by: NHMRC (National Health & Medical Research Council) – Project Grant
  • Sleeping Sound in Adolescence: A pilot study (2016–2018)
    Funded by: Deakin University – Central Research Grant
  • Sleeping sound special needs: A feasibility pilot study (2016–2018)
    Funded by: Deakin University – Faculty of Health
  • Impact of sleep intervention in ADHD: Translational randomised trial (2014–2017)
    Funded by: NHMRC
  • Mindful choices for parents of children with ADHD (2017–2018)
    Funded by: Deakin University – 2017 Central Research Grant Scheme
  • Joy of Moving: Getting children moving: An evaluation of the effectiveness of the "Joy of Moving" program in Australian primary school aged children (2017-2020)
    Funded by: Ferrero’s international foundation, Kinder + Sport

Digital operations platform

The AllPlay programs are supported by a digital development team that uses information and communication technologies to optimise AllPlay research and intervention activity.

The AllPlay digital platform leverages the power of web, app, wearables, gaming, virtual reality, social media and software engineering to deliver innovative, engaging and best-practice digital solutions.

Our team

DCSC Director

Professor Nicole Rinehart 
BA (Hons), MClin Psych (Deakin), PhD (Monash), MAPS, APS College of Clinical Psychologists

Professor of Psychology (Clinical), Deakin University; Director, Deakin Child Study Centre, Deakin University; Honorary Fellow, Critical Care and Neurosciences Theme, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Clinical Psychology (Paediatric) Consultant, Melbourne Children’s Clinic.

Deputy Director

Professor Jane McGillivray
B.B.Sc (Hons Psych), M.Psych (Clin), DHSci (Deakin), MAPS, APS College of Clinical Psychologists, APS College of Health Psychologists

Associate Head of School (Director of Postgraduate Professional Programs), School of Psychology, Deakin University; Deputy Director, Deakin Child Study Centre, Deakin University.

Operations

Dr Nicole Papadopoulos
BBNS (Monash University), PGDipPsy (Monash University), MClinPsych (Australian Catholic University), PhD (Monash University), MAPS. Senior Research Fellow Deakin Child Study Centre, School of Psychology, Deakin University; Clinical Psychologist

Research Staff/Research Fellows

Research Assistants

Ife Adesina
Emily Chan
Tayla Chellew
Chloe Emonson
Emily Grundy
Katherine Howells
Lachlan James
Jo Lim
Christina Martin
Erin Farmer
Zoe Alberts

Postgraduate students

Katherine Howells (PhD)
Emily Chan
Christina Martin (DPsych)
Nicola Read (DPsych)
Chloe Emonson (PhD)
Lucy Sommers (DPsych)
Emily Pattison (DPsych)
Simone Thomas (PhD)
Moira Whelan (PhD)

Professional Staff

Samantha Lewis
Administration Officer

Sarah Hardy
Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Collaborators and partners

Major partners

Thank you to the DCSC major partners:

  • Moose Foundation
  • The Australian Football League (AFL)
  • Ferrero Australia
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
  • Department of Education and Training
  • MECCA Brands
  • Simone and Jonathan Wenig
  • The Grace and Emilio Foundation.

Vic logo Moose logo

ndis logo  mecca logo

Additional collaborators

The DCSC is also proudly associated with:

  • Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI)
  • National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS)
  • School Sports Victoria (SSV)
  • Telethon Kids Institute.

All play contributors

Contact us

General enquiries
Samantha Lewis, Administration Officer
+61 3 9246 8291
Email the Deakin Child Study Centre