I am a senior lecturer in clinical psychology in the Institute of Neuroscience. My main role at the University involves leading and contributing to research in neurodevelopmental disability, particularly research with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). My teaching and administrative duties largely relate to the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. I also contribute teaching to the undergraduate and masters level psychology programmes.
I am involved in a range of research projects. Along with Dr Debbie Riby I am co-chair of the North East Autism Research Group.
I supervise research staff and post-graduate students (PhD students and doctorate in clinical psychology students) and have supervised over 50 doctoral projects.
I contributor to the ‘Ask the Experts’ panel for AUKids magazine http://www.aukids.co.uk/
I am Chair of 1 Voice North East (parent led charity for children with communication difficulties and their families).
I am an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied research in Intellectual Disabilities (JARID).
The primary questions I am interested in relate to the aetiology, phenomenology, assessment and treatment of individuals living with ASD. Understanding these important aspects of ASD is an essential part of providing appropriate support for individuals and their families and critical for the design of appropriate assessment and intervention programmes.
An aspect of my work focuses on anxiety. Anxiety is a significant problem for many individuals with a diagnosis of ASD. The notion that anxiety is an important issue in ASD is not a new idea. What is new, however, is the notion that, as academics and clinicians, we can and should try to do something about it. The therapeutic community has made advances in the development of interventions to tackle anxiety in ASD. However, these intervention programmes, driven by the increasing awareness of the mental health needs of this population, are somewhat in advance of a clear understanding of the nature of anxiety in developmental disability. I am keen therefore to continue to pursue a programme of research that enables further understanding of the interplay between the neurobiological, cognitive and clinical phenomenology associated with ASD. There remains much work to be done, for example, to specify theoretical models of anxiety in ASD, to enable the development of more targeted and effective intervention programmes. A programme of work that encompasses this clinical-academic shuttle is critical to enable progress in this domain.
I also have an enduring interest in sensory processing atypicalities and restricted and repetitive behaviours associated with ASD and other developmental disabilities. Here cross syndrome work is essential to developing an understanding of the specificity of underlying neurobiology across disorders and well as the heterogeneity within.
Finally I am also interested in measurement issues in relation to neurodevelopmental disorders and much of my work has focused on the development, adaptation or validation of measures for use in ASD
I teach on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and contribute to research methods teaching. I also teach on Disorders of Development (BSC and MSc) and supervise undergraduate and masters level research projects.