Chancellor’s Fellow, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh
Beltane Fellow: 3rd June 2013-29th November 2013
Sue Fletcher-Watson is a Chancellor’s Fellow in Moray House School of Education, in the Institute of Education, Community and Society. Her work is mostly with the autism community and she has worked with young children, parents, adults and practitioners. Her background is in developmental psychology and all of her work aims to have an applied value of direct relevance in the real world.
Sue first became interested in developmental disabilities, and autism in particular, through her work with the Oundle School Mencap Holiday, an organisation she’s been volunteering with since 1997 and of which she is now a trustee. She took a degree in Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and then went on to a Masters and PhD at Durham University, where she was fortunate to be supervised by the wonderful Professor Sue Leekam. Sue’s 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 she has worked under the fabulous mentorship of Professor Helen McConachie including a recently-completed Nuffield Fellowship which funded the Click-East project.
Sue’s Beltane Fellowship is covering a range of public engagement, knowledge exchange and research activities connected to the field of autism and technology in education. The activities can be summarised as follows
- A new research project which will gather the expertise of parents of children with autism on how to use technology in the home to support, educate and entertain – whether that’s educational iPad apps, watching YouTube clips or playing on a Nintendo DS. The project will draw on parent interviews and an international online survey. Information will be distilled into guidance for parents news to autism and/or to using technology. Participants will have a chance to comment on the draft guidance to increase the dialogue element, and the final version will be published by the National Autistic Society.
- Feeding back to participants in the recently-completed Click-East study. Sue will hold a party for participants and other stakeholders in the research, circulate a newsletter and create a community via her website. The party will involve a dialogue activity in which stakeholders are invited to share their thoughts on the direction Sue’s research should take next.
- Working with a commercial app developer to create and release new evidence-based apps for children with autism to address key developmental skills.
- Developing and sharing online hub with app reviews, useful blog posts and other resources for researchers, practitioners and the wider community.
The autism community is large and varied. It includes children without spoken language and adults with confident advocacy skills, parents with widely differing perspectives on the benefits imparted or constraints imposed by having a child with autism, practitioners from disciplines ranging from medicine to yoga who may or may not have specialist knowledge and direct experience. Carrying out research which aims to benefit this community is a complex challenge and requires constant direct engagement with that community. The Beltane Fellowship provides a dedicated space and training to enhance these skills to ensure that engagement is given appropriate status on the research agenda and that it is carried out in such a way as to ensure genuine dialogue and high impact.