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Sue Fletcher-Watson appointed Director of SMC Research Centre for Learning Difficulties

Jan 2019: Congratulations to Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson on her appointment as Director of the SMC Research Centre for Learning Difficulties. The Centre, which is part of CCBS at the University of Edinburgh, undertakes research to improve the lives of children with learning difficulties and their families.

The SMC Research Centre for Learning Difficulties is a landmark partnership between the University and Scottish learning difficulties charity, The Salvesen Mindroom Centre (formerly Mindroom) with funding from philanthropist and businessman Mr Alastair Salvesen CBE.

Sue is a developmental psychologist, studying how children grow and learn, with a particular focus on atypical developmental experiences, such as autism and preterm birth. Her work aims to apply rigorous methods from psychology to questions with clinical, educational and societal impact, following open science principles.

Sue's current research themes include: investigations of how digital interactive technologies can best be deployed to support learning and personal growth for autistic children; describing the impact of bilingualism on cognitive development and life experiences in autistic people; and innovative empirical tests of the ‘double empathy problem’ in the context of interaction between neurodivergent and neurotypical adults.  She strives to achieve meaningful partnerships with community representatives and to support neurodivergent leadership in research.  

Sue is a recipient of the British Psychological Society Margaret Donaldson Award and a Certificate of Excellence from Autism Rights Group Highland.

Sue takes on the role of Director from Professor Anne O’Hare who is retiring from the University at the end of March.

Many children struggle with learning: understanding and supporting their development is both a scientific challenge and a pressing need.  I am excited to have the opportunity to promote research that will make a real difference, through my new role in the SMC Research Centre, to these children and young people, their families and the professionals supporting them.

Dr Sue Fletcher-WatsonCentre for Clinical Brain Sciences


On behalf of The Salvesen Mindroom Centre Board, we are delighted that Sue Fletcher-Watson will be leading the SMC Research Centre as we move ahead into this exciting period of our partnership with the University of Edinburgh. Under Professor O'Hare's leadership we have created the strong foundations on which we can now build, we look forward to Dr Fletcher-Watson bringing her incredible expertise, coupled with her energy and enthusiasm, as we transform the lives of those living with learning difficulties, not just in Scotland but across the world.

Anton ColellaChair of The Salvesen Mindroom Centre Board of Trustees

The team and I are very much looking forward to working closely with Sue in her new role. The work carried out by Anne O'Hare, including the highly successful James Lind Alliance project identifying the top 10 unanswered questions on learning difficulties, is a strong platform on which to build. Sue has a wealth of expertise and knowledge and by bringing together powerful research with our strong outreach and education offer, we move towards achieveing our vision of a world where no mind is left behind.

Christine CarlinChief Executive of The Salvesen Mindroom Centre 

Related links

Sue Fletcher-Watson's profile

Sue Fletcher-Watson's research website: DART - Development Autism Research Technology