Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson

Senior Lecturer

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Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes

I am interested in hearing from excellent potential PhD students who wish to deliver scientific rigour as well as community impact in topics relating to autism, disability and child development. Projects closely aligned to my on-going work may be more favourably viewed, though I am also keen to hear about novel ideas.

My research in a nutshell

I am interested in applying methods from psychology to questions with clinical, educational, and societal impact. Most of my work takes a developmental perspective, looking at how experiences in infancy and early childhood shape our ability to learn, our well-being, and our identity. I try to adopt a participatory approach wherever I can, working with stakeholders outside academia to ensure my work is relevant and ethical.

You can read about my research at www.dart.ed.ac.uk and read my tweets @suereviews

Current Research Interests

My current projects and interests include:

  • Investigations of the influence of biligualism on cognitive development, community integration and well-being in children and adults on the autism spectrum

  • Development and exploration of the role of technology in the communication, play and learning of autistic children

  • Understanding early cognitive and social development in children born prematurely: a large longitudinal cohort study (www.tebc.ed.ac.uk)

  • Achievement of positive and equal research partnerships with members of the autistic and autism communities

Biography

I first became interested in developmental disabilities, and autism in particular, through my work with the Oundle School Mencap Holiday, an organisation I’ve been volunteering with since 1997 and of which I became a trustee from 2006-2016. Inspired by OSMH, I am continuing this work by launching a similar charity in Scotland to provide residential holidays for children and young people with learning disabilities.

As an undergraduate I studied Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and then went on to a Masters and PhD at Durham University, where I was fortunate to be supervised by the wonderful Professor Sue Leekam. My PhD research explored the spontaneous social attention preferences of typically-developed adults and adolescents, and those with ASD, using a range of methods, including verbal descriptions, change blindness and eye-tracking. Since then I have worked under the fabulous mentorship of Professor Helen McConachie including a Nuffield Fellowship which funded the Click-East project. I’m now a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh based in the Patrick Wild Centre.

I am a trustee of Scottish Autism and am working closely with this organisation’s efforts to inspire and contribute to evidence-based practice in Scotland. Public engagement is very important to me and I try to provide useful insights into research and exposes of the truth behind the headlines in the DART blog.

My research interests can be summarised as attempts to harness rigorous research methodologies from psychology and medicine, often paired with qualitative data to enrich findings, with a view to delivering evidence ot support clinical and educational practice and policy. You can find out more about my projects at my research site, DART.

Qualifications:

  • BSc (hons) Psychology, University of St Andrews (first class), 2003
  • MA, Developmental Psychopathology, Durham University (with distinction), 2004
  • PhD., 'Understanding social attention in adults with and without autism spectrum disorders', Durham University, 2008

Collaborative Activity

Research activities & awards

  1. Autism & Technology: one day lecture series

    Activity: OtherTypes of Public engagement and outreach - Public lecture/debate/seminar

  2. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, clinical training

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventProfessional Development and Training

  3. Autism on Screen media coverage

    Activity: OtherTypes of Public engagement and outreach - Media article or participation

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