To prevent or minimise disabilities, and where possible, to improve health, well-being, and quality of life for children with disabilities and their families.

Approximately 7.6% of all Australian children have a disability. These disabilities include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, acquired brain injury, visual or hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorder, and rare genetic conditions such as tuberous sclerosis.

The Neurodisability and Rehabilitation Group at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute focuses on helping these children and their families by gaining an improved understanding of the causes of childhood disabilities, optimising interventions, and implementing evidence-based interventions into care and support.

The goal is to prevent or minimise disabilities where possible, and to improve health, well-being, and quality of life for children with disabilities and their families.

Our team has a strong track record of research in disability and collaborates nationally and internationally. We work closely with the Department of Neurodevelopment and Disability at the Royal Children’s Hospital, the Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, and the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne.

Neurodisability and Rehabilitation currently includes approximately 80 paid and honorary staff.

Our five main research streams

  1. Cerebral palsy and physical disability
  2. Autism & intellectual disability
  3. Rehabilitation
  4. Genetics of neurodevelopmental disability
  5. Psychiatry & behaviour

Cerebral palsy and physical disability

Through our program of cerebral palsy research, we aim to improve the way we understand cerebral palsy, detect, and manage it, and offer better support to children with a disability and their families. 

We focused our clinical research on better approaches to preventing and detecting cerebral palsy early and on identifying effective interventions. Through a combination of clinical trials, systematic reviews, cohort studies, and cross-sectional studies we are working on improving the identification and management of movement disorders, pain, displaced hips, drooling, and other co-morbidities associated with cerebral palsy. We have a strong knowledge translation focus and our close links to clinical care ensure we take evidence up into clinical care and practice.

We are committed to studying outcomes for adolescents and young adults, through several projects, including our Centre of Research Excellence (“CP-Achieve”), that focus on identifying ways to improve social, cognitive and behavioural outcomes to enable young adults to live a healthy life. Some of this work also focuses on supporting the mental health of parents and carers of children with a disability.

Our group houses the Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register which collects information on people with cerebral palsy who were born or are living in Victoria. The register was established in 1986 and is now one of the largest cerebral palsy registers in the world. Using the Register, we conduct ongoing research describing, monitoring, and reporting on cerebral palsy in Victoria and Australia, including prevalence, type, topography, and severity of the movement disorder, comorbidities, neuroimaging patterns, and aetiological pathways, use of health services, and mortality. 

Autism & intellectual disability

Our autism research aims to advance our understanding of autism and work towards improved personalised care, services, and support for children with autism.

We organised our research into two streams:

  1. discovery research to explore causal pathways of autism in specialised populations, and
  2. evaluating and improving the best care for children and adolescents with autism and their families.

Some of our research focuses on neurobiological pathways to autism in children who lose skills (“autistic regression”), in twins and in children with known genetic conditions, such as tuberous sclerosis. We are also looking at the impact of gender, mental health and other co-morbidities on child and adolescent outcomes, including participation and quality of life. We also continually collect and evaluate data aimed at understanding the incidence, prevalence, and diagnostic (including pathways to diagnosis) trends of autism in the community.

Ultimately, we aim to build our knowledge to enable personalised care and improve health, wellbeing, and quality of life for children with autism and their families.


Our rehabilitation research focuses on chronic fatigue syndrome, acquired brain injury, and technology. 

Studies seek to understand chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis in children and adolescents, including brain structure and function, school functioning and clinical outcomes. In acquired brain injury, our research aims to improve evidence-informed rehabilitation for children with acquired brain injury and develop evidence-based clinical standards. We incorporate the perspective of children and parents and clinicians.  

We are also excited about the benefits technology can bring to rehabilitation, and are adopting a general-purpose social robot for paediatric rehabilitation through in situ design.

Genetics of neurodevelopmental disability

Genetics of neurodisability research aims to improve the lives of children with neurodisability through improved diagnosis and treatment. Most neurodevelopmental disabilities have a genetic cause, yet even using the latest genetic testing technologies, a specific cause is identified in only 25% of affected children. Many new genetic tests are not routinely available. Knowing the genetic cause is a key entry point for treatment, prevention, and improving clinical care. Our research focuses on identifying genetic causes for a range of neurodevelopmental disabilities including intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, brain malformations, and autism. 

We are also actively involved in the translation of new genomic testing technologies into clinical care. 

Psychiatry & behaviour

Our research focuses on developing a better understanding of the pathophysiology and underlying causes of ADHD, irritability, conduct disorder, and depression using a range of approaches including Neuropsychopharmacology, neuroimaging, and genetics. We are developing personalised approaches to the treatment of child and adolescent mental health problems through the use and study of biomarkers, neurocognitive phenotypes, clinical trials, pharmacoepidemiology, and patient-reported outcomes.

We also aim to develop clinical pathways that facilitate the rapid transfer of research evidence into routine clinical practice.

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