Tizard Research Projects

Featured story

Three people hugging and smiling
Picture by Nathan Anderson

Current research projects


Project group: The INTERACT Trial research team comprises of Professor Jill Bradshaw and Dr Nick Gore from the Tizard Centre, Professor Catherine Hewitt (joint lead), Dr Kerry Bell, Dr Alison Booth and Dr Arabella Scantlebury from University of York, Professor Judy Clegg, University of Sheffield, Professor Lindsay Pennington, University of Newcastle, Dr Fliss Kyffin, Bangor University, Amanda Allard, Council for Disabled Children, Jenny Miller, PAMIS, Lucy Zeigler, PPIE member.

Funded by: National Institute for Health and Social Care Research –  Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme

Project aims: We are conducting what is known as a randomised controlled trial. A randomised controlled trial tests the effects of an intervention with an alternative, this could be nothing, current or best practice or an alternative intervention. Participants are recruited for the trial and then randomly assigned by a computer programme to one of the trial groups. The research team have no say which group participants are assigned to.

In this trial, we are looking to test whether an intervention called Intensive Interaction is beneficial for children and young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). We hope that it will improve their communication skills and their quality of life.

To do this, we are aiming to recruit 66 educational settings providing education to children and young people with PMLD.

In this trial, participants will be randomly assigned to receive an intervention called Intensive Interaction or to continue to receive their care and education as usual.

Contact: J.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk

What Matters to Me

Project group: Jill Bradshaw and Nick Gore (Tizard Centre), Challenging Behaviour Foundation

Funded by: Blagrave Trust and Children in Need

Project aims: The What Matters to Me Project is a 3-year project funded by The Blagrave Trust and Children in Need and extending on previous similar work with the Seldom Heard Project. This project will involve creatively engaging young people aged 16-25 years with a severe or profound and multiple learning disability to gather their experiences, preferences and views to influence local and national policy. The CBF will be working alongside Tizard Centre at the University of Kent; a leading UK academic centre working in autism, learning disability and community care, to develop approaches and models to creatively engage with the young people participating in this project.

Often, the experiences, preferences and views of young people with severe or complex needs are not always obtained, as it can be viewed as ‘too difficult’ if the young person has no or very limited verbal communication. With the What Matters to Me Project, we want to be able to demonstrate that adaptable approaches can be used to obtain the experiences, preferences and views of young people who have complex communication challenges and by evidencing this work we can drive change and influence policy at a local and national level.

The project is being supported by an advisory group of members including family carers, providers, MENCAP, Policy Leads and Independent Advisors.

ContactJ.Bradshaw@kent.ac.uk and N.J.Gore@kent.ac.uk

STaff Resilience And Wellbeing Project (STRAW): Feasibility study of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to support staff in learning disability adult social care services

Project group: Peter Baker (PI), Nick Gore (Co-I,Tizard), Beckie Whelton (RA, Tizard), Imarni Hill (RA, Tizard), Professor Richard Hastings (Co-I, University of Warwick), Nick Barrett (Co-I, Barrett Behaviour Change Consultancy), Catherine Henderson (Co-I, London School of Economics.

Funded by: NIHR School for Social Care Research  https://www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk/projects/p155/

Project aims: Staff working with people with learning disabilities and/or re autistic, who present behaviours that challenge are at risk of experiencing stress and trauma related to their work. Such stress can have a direct impact on the quality-of-care staff can provide. Previous research indicates that staff who feel more supported are better equipped to deal with the emotional impact of these experiences. This study aims to take Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) – an approach currently used by first responders and adapt it for use as a service wide intervention specifically for adult social care staff working with LD and/autistic individuals who present with behaviours that challenge and explore the feasibility of implementing and evaluating CISM’s effectiveness and cost effectiveness. The project has two phases; phase one involved adapting CISM to support adult social care staff who work with LD and/or autistic people who present behaviours that challenge with the assistance of key adult social care stakeholders and experts in the field of LD challenging behaviour & organisational trauma. Phase two involves piloting the implementation of the adapted CISM support model with the assistance of two adult social care independent providers to identify four service units with high reported incidents of impactful behaviours that challenge. The pilot will explore the feasibility of implementation along with gathering outcome data and initial cost information.

Commenced: September 2020

Contact: Dr Peter Baker p.a.baker@kent.ac.uk

Early Identification of Autism & Training in Primary School Settings

Project group: Dr Paraskevi Triantafyllopoulou (PI), Dr Serena Tomlinson, Dr Melanie Howell, Dr Dani Shalet, Winnie Tsang, Georgios Mamolis, Lina Moraitou, Susie Bass, Stella Koiliari, Dr Tracey Warren, Dr Jill Bradshaw, Prof Glynis Murphy

Funded by: Department for Education

Project aims: The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is an assessment which is completed for all children in England at the end of reception year by their teachers. To facilitate best practice, it teachers in mainstream settings should have a basic understanding of autism, to aid early identification of autism and to promote positive attitudes towards autistic pupils.

This project aims to replicate and extend UK research by Wright et al. (2019) in which the EYFSP was employed as a screening tool in order to identify children who might be autistic. Primary school children who reached a cut-off in specific five EYFSP items are assessed using autism screening questionnaires. Autism is then confirmed by the gold standard method of Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI-R), the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule Version 2 (ADOS-2) and a multidisciplinary team meeting.

The aims and objectives of this study are :

(a) To identify whether autism awareness training increases teachers’ autism understanding as well as quality and accuracy of autism referrals.
(b)To further confirm the feasibility of a two-stage screening process within school settings, involving the EYFSP and autism screening questionnaires.
(c) To examine identification of autism in girls as compared to boys and investigate different cut -off scores of autism screening questionnaires.

Contact: Dr Paraskevi Triantafyllopoulou (PI) P.Triantafyllopoulou@kent.ac.uk

Helping people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities at risk under the law. See: Safer-IDD project site.

Project group: Prof Glynis Murphy, Dr Neil Sinclair, Dr Rowena Rossiter, Dr Josie Collins, Lisa Richardson, Nadjet El-Mehidi

Funded by: DoH and Baily Thomas Charitable Fund. Now funded by NIHR (HTA).

Project aims: Safer-IDD provides information,  resources, training and research in relation to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD), who are at risk under the law (either as suspects or victims/witnesses).

Contact: g.h.murphy@kent.ac.uk

Experiences of conducting practice-based research amongst behavioural practitioners

Project group: Serena Tomlinson (Tizard Centre), Nick Gore (Tizard Centre), Andy Swartfigure (BeyondAutism)

Project aims: We would like to find out how behavioural practitioners view research, whether and how they use research in their practice, and their experiences of conducting practice-based research in the field (if applicable) including any advantages or challenges they have encountered in this. Behavioural practitioners include anyone using a behavioural framework in their work, and may be working in range of settings (including practice-based, or Universities). We are interested in the experiences of those who have and have not conducted research themselves. The study aims to provide information about how research is perceived and used within the field, ways to maximise the usefulness of research, and ways to support those who would like to conduct practice-based research as part of their role.

Contact: Serena Tomlinson: s.tomlinson@kent.ac.uk

Safer online lives: use of the internet & social media by people with Intellectual Disabilities

Project group: Dr Paraskevi Triantafyllopoulou (PI), Jessie Newsome (RA), Professor Michelle McCarthy (Co-I), Professor Shujun Li (Co-I)

Funded by: NIHR School for Social Care Research

Project aims: This is a mixed-methods exploratory study, using both qualitative and quantitative elements to explore the benefits of internet use for people with Intellectual Disabilities (ID), the risks they might come up against, the barriers people with ID might come across due to the ‘digital divide’, and the opportunities offered by being online. The views and experiences of adults with ID, family carers, paid carers, as well as the views of safeguarding practitioners and professionals, will be investigated.

Contact: saferonlinelives@kent.ac.uk

Access to Early Years Support for Children with Neurodevelopmental Conditions and Their Families: Associations with Neighbourhood Socio-Economic Deprivation

Project group: Suzi Sapiets, x2 undergraduate students (TBC), Professor Vaso Totsika (UCL), Professor Richard Hastings (University of Warwick), Dr Nick Gore (Tizard Centre) Embracing Complexity coalition

Funded by: University of Kent’s Summer Vacation Research Competition

Project aims: Neurodevelopmental conditions (eg autism, learning disabilities, attention difficulties) are lifelong conditions which affect the brain and influence how people think, perceive the world and interact with others. Children with neurodevelopmental conditions have an increased risk of poorer mental and physical health. While early support can improve outcomes, research indicates low rates of access. Factors such as local area-level income, employment, education, health, housing and services likely influence access, however, there is a lack of research on this. Developing understanding of the relationship between these and access to support is crucial to address low levels of access and ensure all children with neurodevelopmental conditions can benefit from early support. This research project aims to develop an understanding of the relationship between local area-level socio-economic deprivation and access to early years support for families of children with neurodevelopmental conditions. It will make use of a large dataset collated as part of the Support in the Early Years study, documenting access to a various education, health and social care services in addition to a range of early intervention programmes for families of young children with neurodevelopmental condition across the UK.

Contact: Suzi Sapiets s.sapiets@kent.ac.uk


Early Positive Approaches to Support

Project group: Dr Nick Gore and Dr Jill Bradshaw

Project aims: Early Positive Approaches to Support (E-PAtS) is a non-commercial, co-produced and co-facilitated support programme for caregivers of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities aged 0-5. E-PAtS has been the focus of a recently completed feasibility trial funded by NIHR PHR) and is currently being piloted and evaluated via online delivery.

Contact: N.J.Gore@Kent.ac.uk

Mapping and Evaluating Services for Children with Learning Disability and Behaviours that Challenge

Project group: Lead by University of Warwick. Dr Nick Gore and Dr Jill Bradshaw are Co-investigators

Funded by: NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research

Project aims: The aim of the MELD project is to map, describe distinct service models, and explore functioning of community services for children with learning disability and behaviours that challenge in England.

Contact: meldstudy@warwick.ac.uk and N.J.Gore@Kent.ac.uk

Sharland Foundation Developmental Disabilities ABA Research and Impact Network (SF-DDARIN)

Project group: Lead by University of Warwick. Nick Gore and Peter Baker are Co-investigators

Funded by: Sharland Foundation (Via University of Warwick)

Project aims: The Sharland Foundation Developmental Disabilities ABA Research and Impact Network (SF-DDARIN) is a network of like-minded research practitioners. The over-arching purpose of SF-DDARIN is to increase the reach and impact of ABA-based interventions for children and adults with developmental disabilities (including intellectual disabilities and/or autism) to support their independence and increased quality of life. Nick Gore and Peter Baker lead on the PBS sub-group

Contact: N.J.Gore@Kent.ac.uk and l.denne@warwick.ac.uk 

Coronavirus and people with learning disabilities study: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with learning disabilities and factors associated with better outcomes

Project group:

  • Primary Investigators: Prof Richard Hastings (University of Warwick), Prof Chris Hatton (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Co-Investigators: Prof David Abbott (University of Bristol), Dr Stephen Beyer (Cardiff University), Dr Jill Bradshaw (University of Kent), Dr Nick Gore (University of Kent), Prof Pauline Heslop (University of Bristol), Prof Andrew Jahoda (University of Glasgow), Anna Marriott (National Development Team for Inclusion), Dr Katrina Scior (UCL), Dr Laurence Taggart (University of Ulster), Dr Stuart Todd (University of South Wales)
  • Partner organisations: Learning Disability Wales, All Wales Forum of Parents and Carers of People with Learning Disabilities, Scottish Commission for Learning Disability, Promoting A More Inclusive Society (PAMIS), Positive Futures, Mencap Northern Ireland, Learning Disability England, PMLD Link
  • Researchers: Dr Sue Caton (Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Samantha Flynn (University of Warwick), Dr Tom Bailey (University of Warwick), Dr Amanda Gillooly (University of Glasgow), Dr Roseann Maguire (University of Glasgow), Dr Edward Oloidi (University of South Wales), Dr Peter Mulhall (University of Ulster)

Funded by: UKRI-COVID-19 research programme

Project aims: We are aiming to answer three key questions in this project:

  1. What are the wellbeing, health and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including social restrictions and changes to how people are supported, on the lives of adults with learning disabilities across the UK over time?
  2. What actionable factors are associated with better outcomes for: a) people with mild/moderate learning disabilities; b) people with severe/profound learning disabilities?
  3. What urgent issues concerning people with learning disabilities are emerging over time?
    We aimed to recruit 1000 people with learning disabilities across the UK (cohort 1), and 500 family carers or paid support staff of people with learning disabilities (cohort 2) who could not take part in an interview themselves.

There will be three ‘Waves’ of data collections to capture differences over time during the COVID-19 pandemic, so we will interview or survey all participants three times (once per ‘Wave’) during the project:

  • Cohort 1 will take part in an interview (e.g., telephone, video-call) with a researcher three times over the course of the project
  • Cohort 2 will complete an online survey three times over the course of the project.

Further information

Contact: S.Flynn.1@warwick.ac.uk

Involving adults with intellectual and developmental disability who display behaviours that challenge in decisions relating to their support

Project group: Jill Bradshaw (PI), Nick Gore, Jane Pringle, Viv Cooper (Co-I) and Julie Beadle-Brown (SSCR link)

Funded by: School for Social Care Research

Project aims: To better understand how to access and respond to the views, will and preferences of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with a particular focus on ensuring people’s involvement in the development of behaviour support plans.  Whilst our research to date has demonstrated feasibility of direct involvement, more research is now needed to explore the benefits of this approach, by identifying ways of more directly involving people who have a greater range of communication skills and challenges and to document these experiences to produce and evaluate a toolkit for professionals to use.

Commenced: January 2021

Contact: Jane Pringle – j.m.pringle@kent.ac.uk


The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 has confirmed Kent as a leading research university, with the majority of its submissions rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent.