Our Team

Professor Susan Leekam

Chair in Autism at Cardiff University and Director of the Wales Autism Research Centre

Research Interest: Behaviours and Diagnosis ,Cognition and Perception ,Families and relationships

Professor Sue Leekam is Chair in Autism at Cardiff University and Director of the Wales Autism Research Centre.

  • Previously Sue was Professor of Psychology at Durham University.
  • Before that she held a lectureship and senior lectureship at the University of Kent.
  • Sue is a developmental psychologist . Her research focuses on the core diagnostic symptoms of social-communication and repetitive behaviour and also on features associated with autism such as anxiety.
  • She carries out research cognitive and sensory aspects of autism e.g. visual attention.
  • Her work involves children and adults and recently she has been studying parent factors.
  • She was involved in developing and publishing the diagnostic instrument, the Diagnostic Interview of Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO).
  • Sue received the Autism Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 for the contribution she has made to the autism community
  • Sue has just taken retirement and will be working part time at WARC in 2015.

 

 

Dr Katherine Shelton

Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology

Research Interest: Families and relationships

  • Katherine is a developmental psychologist and researches the links between family relationship quality and the psychological well-being of parents and their children.
  • Katherine works with Beverley Winn and serves as her doctoral supervisor. Bev is studying ASD and couple relationships.
  • Current research projects that Katherine leads on include the early support needs of families who have had a child or children placed for adoption as well as the mental health needs of young people with experiences of homelessness.

 

Dr Catherine Jones

Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology

Research Interest: Cognition and Perception

  • Catherine is interested in understanding how and why people on the autism spectrum think and behave differently to people without ASD.
  • This includes finding out more about how people with ASD process very basic perceptual information such as simple sounds.
  • She is interested in whether differences in basic perceptual processing ability, such as very good or very poor detection of sounds, are related to the usual sensory experiences that affect many people with ASD.
  • Her other research into understanding ASD includes investigating face and emotion processing, exploring ‘everyday’ memory functioning, and looking at how well individuals with ASD are able to use and understand time.

 

Dr Kate Langley

Senior Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology

Research Interest: Co-occurrence of disorders, causes of disorder

  • Kate’s interests are in the way in which different disorders occur in children and adolescents.
  • People with ASD do not all have exactly the same symptoms or difficulties and ASD frequently co-occurs with behaviour problems such as ADHD and challenging behaviour.
  • Looking at both clinical and population samples, Kate is interested in how different risk factors (both genetic and environmental) influence this variation in problems across individuals and how these change as children grow into adolescence.

 

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Dr David Mcgonigle 

Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology

Research Interest: Biological and cognitive processes 

  • Dave’s research interest include studying sensory processing .This means focusing on the rules and mechanisms that the brain uses to make sense of the world.
  • He uses the somatosensory system – the sense of touch – as a gateway to uncover some of the fundamental principles that govern neuronal communication in the human brain.
  • He is particularly interested in the dynamic, plastic nature of sensory processing: how our perceptions are critically dependent on the waxing and waning of millisecond to millisecond changes in brain activity.

 

Dr Elisabeth von dem Hagen  

Lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology

Research Interest: Biological and cognitive processes 

  • Elisabeth is interested in understanding how we process social signals like faces and eye gaze, and how these processes might differ in people with ASD
  • She uses neuroimaging to look at the structure and function of brain regions involved in the processing of social signals
  • She is also interested in looking at the dynamics of social interaction in people with ASD, both from a behavioural and neuroimaging perspective

 

Sarah Carrington

Honorary Research Fellow – School of Psychology , Cardiff University

Research Interest: Brain Imaging and Diagnosis

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  • Sarah’s main area of research involves brain imaging. She has used different types of brain imaging to investigate both the structure of the brain and brain activity.
  • Brain imaging may help us to understand how symptoms of ASD may be related to differences in brain structure or function and Sarah is developing new research together with some of our colleagues who specialise in genetics to help us learn more about this relationship.
  • Sarah is also involved in research into the diagnosis of ASD. Recently, she has been working with Sue Leekam and Rachel Kent to develop brief interviews for diagnosis and ‘signposting’ of ASD based on the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO).

 

Beverley Winn

PhD student with the Wales Autism Research Centre

Parent Consultant and PhD Student

  • As parent consultant, Beverley works on developing the relationship between the centre and those affected by autism, making sure the research conducted at the centre is readily available.
  • Beverley helps to bridge the gap between the researchers at the centre and the families of those with ASD. She is able to provide the parent prospective to the researchers and assists with any questions parents might have. This ensures an autism friendly environment at the centre.
  • Beverley has a degree in Psychology and a Masters degree in Health Psychology from Cardiff Metropolitan University.
  • Beverley begins her PhD research at the School of Psychology, Cardiff University in January 2013 which will explore autism and couples relationship satisfaction, health and wellbeing.

 

Former WARC members

Lynda Morgan

WARC Project Manager

  • Lynda was previously a project manager responsible for the management of the Autism Research Policy and Practice Hub (www.autismrpphub.org).
  • Lynda is a qualified accountant and project manager .
  • She is now working at WARC one day a week to help in the coordination work of the Centre and ongoing organisation of the RPP Hub.
  • Lynda works actively with parents and the autism community across South Wales and she brings to WARC her community experience from many years of work with autism.

 

Dr Louise White

Former Post-doctoral Research Associate

Research Interest: Sensory Processing

  • Louise White has a degree in Experimental Psychology and a DPhil in Auditory Temporal Integration from Sussex University.
  • Her early research interests were in auditory perception in normally hearing and hearing impaired listeners, particular how their hearing systems process sounds of different durations.
  • Since 2011 Louise has worked at WARC where she is interested in all the sensory processing aspects of autism in adults.
  • She has worked as the project manager on the ESRC funded project ‘Integrating Research and Practice in ASD’ which aimed to bring the worlds of research and practice in ASD closer together.

 

Dr. Mirko Uljarevic

Mirko completed his PhD at the Wales Autism Research Centre, Cardiff University

Research Interest: Intervention

  • Mirko is interested in how people with ASD recognise and deal with their emotions and how their emotional understanding impacts on the way they behave and expect others to behave.
  • Currently, Mirko’s PhD research focus is developing effective early interventions for children with ASD focusing on repetitive and limited behaviours (such as spinning and hand flapping). Mirko is exploring the relationship between repetitive/limited behaviours, social symptoms and anxiety in children and young people with autism and is also exploring anxiety and depression in parents of children with autism.
  • It is hoped this research will lead to improvements in screening, diagnosis and development of effective interventions for autism.

 

Dr Rachel Kent

Rachel completed her PhD at the Wales Autism Research Centre

Research Interest: Diagnosis

  • Rachel’s research is focused on developing and promoting the use of the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO).
  • The DISCO is a detailed interview with parents or caregivers of the individual. One of the benefits of using the DISCO is that it includes the associated (sensory, motor, emotion, daily functioning) features as well as the existing symptoms used to diagnose autism.
  • Hopefully, this research will challenge the current criteria for diagnosing autism, including which symptoms should be considered more essential than others. Also, it should aid the development of recognising “red flag” symptoms so a referral can be made for diagnosis.