Before taking up my post at the University of Aberdeen, I was the Autism Development Coordinator for Moray Council Education Department. Prior to this, I worked as a Support for Learning teacher with young people on the autism spectrum in a secondary base.
Whilst working as a teacher, I undertook a part-time PhD at the University of Aberdeen in pupil support and pupil voice that linked to my work as a Support for Learning teacher. I achieved my doctorate in July 2004 and joined the School of Education in September 2004 as a Lecturer in Inclusive Practice with a specialism in autism.
In 2008 I developed the postgraduate Masters Pathway in Autism & Learning and became Programme Director. This is an interprofessional programme designed to provide high level studies in autism and learning suitable for parents, teachers, therapists, care workers and other professionals who support individuals on the autism spectrum across service contexts. This programme is still running and is in preparation for going online. The online programme is designed to widen access and attract international students, as well as UK and local students, and will provide a more flexible route into autism studies.
In 2011 I was promoted to Senior Lecturer. Since then I have held the role of Director of Research Culture & Support with a remit to develop research provision for staff and PhD students within the School, and to enhance inclusion and participation across our research community. In 2014, I joined the Executive Committee and became Director of Staff Development & Wellbeing. In this role I was responsible for the planning and organisation of professional development and for supporting staff & student wellbeing. Around this time, I also became Co-Lead of the Athena SWAN Self Assessment Team responsible for ensuring that the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion are embedded across all school structures, processes and practices. This team were successful in achieveing the Athena SWAN Bronze Award - the first School of Education in the UK to do so! I have recently completed my period of office in both these roles and now focus on my teaching and research.
I research in the field of inclusion and autism and have written many papers, book chapters and two books in this area. I have recently become involved in collaborative and transdisciplinary research projects with colleagues in Medical Science and Computing Science at the University of Aberdeen. I am currently working on an exciting project that focuses on capacity building for educational inclusion in remote and rural schools in Cambodia.
I research in autism and inclusion and also have a particular interest in pupil voice research. (Please see publications below.)
Between September 2013 and June 2014 I was involved in the planning, design and organisation of a series of four autism research seminars that took place at Strathclyde University. The series was funded by the Scottish Government. The purpose of the seminars was to explore the state of autism research in Scotland and its impact on policy, practice and individuals on the autism spectrum. Members of the autism community, the autism research community, practitioners supporting clients with autism across Scottish health, education and social care services, and other related professionals, were invited to the series and the final conference. Presentations and keynotes from a wide range of Scottish and International researchers provided a rich and stimulating focus. The findings of the seminar series were written up and reported to the Scottish Government at a report launch in December 2015.
During this period I also completed a book entitled: Supporting Change for Children and Adults with Autism: Transforming Theory into Practice (2015).
Since then, I have been working with a researchers in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Aberdeen to develop a mask-based drama intervention to address imitation difficulties, and enhance mental health, in individuals with autism in secondary schools. We have conducted a feasibility study and are currently seeking funding for a pilot study.
More recently, a research partner and I were awarded funding to undertake a scoping study in Cambodia to explore how we might support capacity building in inclusive education in remote, rural schools in Battambang Province. We have now completed this scoping study and are writing up the findings. The next stage of the study will involve developing a model of teacher professional development in inclusion that will be relevant and sustainable in the Cambodian context. This will enable teachers in rural schools to ehance the quality of inclusion for all children in their classrooms.
I am also working with a researcher in Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computer Sciences to explore whether we can develop a 'wearable' that might help children with autism to enhance their emotion regulation and control in the classroom and at home.
I am currently involved in three separate, but complementary, research collaborations:
1. I have developed research links with an autism researchers in the School of Medical Sciences in order to explore how his neuroscientific research into imitation difficulties in people with autism might be translated into an effective intervention to support the development of imitation skills in learners with autism in secondry schools.
2. I am also working with a researcher in Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computing Science to explore the possibility of developing a 'wearable' that might enable pupils with autism to enhance their emotion regulation and control in the classroom and at home.
3. I am collaborating with a Cambodian Education NGO and researchers at the University of Battambang, Cambodia, to develop a model of teacher professional development that will build capacity for educational inclusion in remote and rural schools in Battambang Province.
Pump-priming grant (£3.500) for evaluative research study:Autism & Learning programme.
Scottish Government / National Autistic Society/ Scottish Autism grant (£50,000) for autism research series (see above)
I am a Reader on the Inclusive Practice programme and Programme Director and tutor on the P.G. Cert Autism & Learning.
I also lecture to BEd and PGDE students in autism, research ethics, interprofessional collaboration, labelling and the hidden curriculum, and pupil disengagement.
- Further Info
I undertake peer reviews for several academic research journals such as the International Journal of Inclusive Education, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs and Journal of Interprofesional Care.
I have also been external examiner (PhD) at the University of Strathclyde and University of Exeter, and have twice been internal examiner at the University of Aberdeen.
I presented a Keynote Speech to the Scottish Autism 50th Anniversary Conference in Glasgow in November 2018. The keynote was entitled: From Interprofessionalism to Transprofessionalism: A bridge to innovative practice?
I have recently been invited to support the development of strategic planning and staff training in autism for Student Support Services at the University of Aberdeen.
I am Director of the Postgraduate Certificate in Autism and Learning programme and take responsibility for teaching and learning, assessment, recruitment and ongoing collaboration with the National Autistic Society, local service users and other partners. I am currently developing an online programme.
I also coordinate two modules on the Inclusive Practice programme: Participation and Learning and Introduction to Autism. I undertake ongoing monitoring, evaluation and development of these modules, and I am responsible for tutoring and assessesment.