Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson

Professor of Developmental Psychology; Director of the Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre

Background

I first became interested in developmental disabilities, and autism in particular, through my work with the Oundle School Mencap Holiday, an organisation I’ve been volunteering with since 1997 and of which I became a trustee from 2006-2016. Inspired by OSMH, I am continuing this work as founder of SuperTroop, a charity providing residential holidays for children and young people with learning disabilities.

As an undergraduate I studied Psychology at the University of St Andrews, and then went on to a Masters and PhD at Durham University, where I was fortunate to be supervised by the wonderful Professor Sue Leekam. My PhD research explored the spontaneous social attention preferences of autistic and non-autistic adults and adolescents, using a range of methods, including verbal descriptions, change blindness and eye-tracking. Since then I have worked under the fabulous mentorship of Professor Helen McConachie including a Nuffield Fellowship which funded the Click-East project. I became a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Edinburgh based in the Patrick Wild Centre and in 2019 I moved into the role of Director of the Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre.

I am a former trustee of Scottish Autism and working closely with this organisation, and autistic-led organisations such as ARGH and AMASE, to inspire and contribute to high-quality, respectful, evidence-based practice in Scotland. Public engagement is very important to me and I try to provide useful insights into research and accessible summaries of knotty academic issues in the DART blog.

Qualifications

  • BSc (hons) Psychology, University of St Andrews (first class), 2003
  • MA, Developmental Psychopathology, Durham University (with distinction), 2004
  • PhD., 'Understanding social attention in adults with and without autism spectrum disorders', Durham University, 2008

Responsibilities & affiliations

Convenor of the Scottish ADOS Consortium

Chartered Psychologist, British Psychological Society

Research summary

I am interested in how children grow and learn, with a particular focus on non-normative experiences, such as autism and preterm birth. 

My work aims to apply rigorous methods from psychology to questions with clinical, educational and societal impact. I strive to achieve meaningful partnerships with community representatives and to support neurodivergent leadership in research.  

I am an advocate for open science and good citizenship in research.

Research aims and areas of interest

  • Cognitive and behavioural approaches to understanding neurodiversity in (social) development & consequences for practice in education, health and social care
  • Applied research for autism, drawing on Psychology, Medicine, Informatics and Education
  • Complex intervention development and evaluation, including rigorous outcome measurement for clinical trials, and community trial methodology
  • Infant cognition, and studying long-term outcomes in infants born premature
  • Technology for learning; development of novel technologies to provide effective support, and evaluation of these in practice
  • Methodologies: randomised controlled trials; eye-movement recording; experimental group comparisons; focus groups; interviews; online surveys, Delphi studies

Current project grants

Autism & Bilingualism in Childhood: http://dart.ed.ac.uk/research/bilingualism-childhood/
Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort: www.tebc.ed.ac.uk/
Mental Health Data Science Scotland: https://mhdss.ac.uk/

View all 83 publications on Research Explorer