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Sue Flectcher-Watson joins CCBS

Chancellor's Fellow Sue Fletcher-Watson is a developmental psychologist who has recently joined Psychiatry at CCBS.

Sue is a developmental psychologist who has recently moved to CCBS from a previous role in the School of Education. She has an interest in using research methods from psychology to address questions with clinical, educational and societal impact. She hopes that being embedded in a medical school will give her the opportunity to continue to realise this goal, and also to help basic scientists achieve translational outcomes.

Sue is interested in how children develop and learn, and in particular in cases where this follows an unusual trajectory, especially autism. This interest first arose through her work with the Oundle School Mencap Holiday, an organisation she has been volunteering with since 1997 and of which she is now a trustee.

Career to date

As an undergraduate, Sue studied Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and then went on to a Masters and PhD at Durham University, supervised by Professor Sue Leekam. Subsequently she completed two post-doctoral fellowships at Newcastle University, under the mentorship of Professor Helen McConachie who remains a close collaborator.

Sue came to Edinburgh in 2010 with a Nuffield Foundation funded project to develop and evaluate a new iPad app designed to promote social cognitive skills in preschool aged children with autism. The results of this recently-completed and highly novel randomised controlled trial are currently awaiting publication. Since then, Sue has struck up collaborations with groups associated with CCBS such as the Patrick Wild Centre and the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory.

Research interests

Sue’s current research can be split into two main strands. The first focuses on describing child development, by linking features at one stage of life with later outcomes. For example, in a collaborative project with the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory she is using MR brain scans, eye-tracking and standardised tests to find out how children born very preterm respond to that early adversity. This work is inspired by methods pioneered in the study of early signs of autism, a field where Sue is also active, as in a recent project gathering responses from the autism community on their attitudes to early autism research.


The second research strand aims to develop and evaluate interventions or educational aids to help children (and indeed adolescents and adults) with autism achieve their full potential. To this end Sue recently published a Cochrane Collaboration review of interventions for autism based on the influential “theory of mind” cognitive model. In particular, Sue is interested in the potential for technology, such as iPads, as a therapeutic and learning route. Her recent projects include a survey of how families of children with autism use technology at home (giving rise to the publication of guidelines for parents) and an evaluation of the use of iPads in a school for children with additional needs. Sue is also engaged in smaller projects which focus on diverse issues such as the impact of being raised bilingually on children with autism, the employment prospects of people with autism, and the impact of digital books on reading development in typical children. Please Visit the DART (Development / Autism / Research / Technology) website for details or follow Sue’s work on Twitter.

Sue Fletcher-Watson Principal Investigator profile

DART (Development / Autism / Research / Technology) website

Sue's Cochrane Review on interventions for autism based on theory of mind

Follow Sue's work on Twitter (@SueReviews)

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