Student blog: Raising awareness of autism in children

It is World Autism Awareness Week 2020 and today, 2nd April 2020 is World Autism Awarenss Day. We asked our level four BSc Psychology and Child Development student, Claire, a mother of children with autism, to write a blog on her experiences of children with autism.

What is autism?

The National Autistic Society defines autism as a “lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them”.

A little about my children:

I have two beautiful little boys and two older children.

  • One of my little boys is diagnosed with high functioning autism spectrum condition.
  • My other little boy is currently undergoing assessment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyspraxia.

Our journey for an autism diagnosis:

At the age of 9 my son was diagnosed with high functioning autism. The journey to get the diagnosis was challenging. From the age of 4 my son:

  • Had temper tantrums that would last for hours after school
  • Became restless and was struggling with the children at school

Each parent’s evening, I would have the same feedback that my son was “academically really intelligent, but he lacks concentration and fidgets too much!”.

Until one teacher at a parent’s evening said, “I believe you, I can see traits of autism, but they are very subtle”. Due to this teacher acknowledging these traits in my son and adapting his learning environment he:

  • Had fewer major tantrums after school
  • Seemed happy again and was sharing stories about his day

My son is now 12 and has moved from primary school to secondary school. During the transition we are trying to raise awareness of autism and support him, and other children, to achieve their potential.

Why I chose to study Psychology and Child Development:

Based on the journey that I have been on with my boys I decided that I wanted to be able to help other children, caregivers, families and schools during the diagnosis and support of autism conditions.

I am completing my course as a mature student and I am really looking forward to graduating with this degree to put what I am learning into action!

You can read more about autism on the National Autistic Society’s webpage.


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

What do children know about online safety?

Our Peter Macaulay writes about his recent publication on children’s online safety knowledge and attitudes towards e-safety education.

What did our research involve?

We asked 329 children aged 8 to 11 years old to complete questionnaires which had questions on:

  1. Perceived online safety;
  2. Subjective knowledge of online safety and dangers;
  3. Objective knowledge of online safety and dangers;
  4. Attitudes towards e-safety education.

What were our main findings?

  • We found that the children generally reported feeling safe online.
  • The children perceived that they had a good awareness of online dangers and how to avoid them (subjective knowledge).
    • This subjective knowledge predicted the child’s perceived online safety.
  • However, the children tended to be poorer at saying exactly what those dangers were and how they personally could avoid them (objective knowledge).
    • This was especially true of boys and the younger children who took part in our research.

Together, these findings suggest that some children may think that they know how to stay safe online, but lack, or atleast may be unable to say, objective knowledge that could actually keep them safe.

Child typing at a PC to an unknown user.

How could people build on our research?

  1. Our findings show that there is a need to assess children’s objective knowledge of online safety and dangers.
  2. Having further insights into this knowledge will help to design and provide appropriate e-safety education for children who currently lack this knowledge.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Psychology and Me: An interactive evening of psychology!

The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University is delighted to invite you to Psychology and Me!

Psychology and Me is a fun and interactive evening where you will be given the opportunity to get hands-on with some of our state-of-the-art research resources. You will also be able to hear about the latest research findings from a variety of experts working in psychology.

Psychology and Me will take place at Staffordshire University’s Science Centre, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, on Wednesday 26th February 5:45pm – 8:30 pm.

Everyone is welcome, please make sure that you book your ticket(s)! These include free onsite parking and refreshments.

This year’s Psychology and Me event includes these fantastic activities:

Psychology and Me: Listen!

A series of short expert talks will explore some fascinating questions, such as:

  1. How do we prevent dog bites in young children?
  2. How does psychology relate to physical health?
  3. How and why do we measure brain activity?

Psychology and Me: Hands on!

Engage in some fun equipment-based demonstrations to understand how we conduct research in psychology, such as:

  • How we can tell if you are stressed
  • How we can measure your brain activity with EEG
  • How we can test your reaction skills with our driving simulator

Psychology and Me: A chance to win!

Would you like the chance to win some Amazon vouchers? Take part in some of our hands-on activities and you could be in the running! Entry information and winners to be announced at the event.


How does psychology apply to you and your life? Come along and find out!

Reserve your free ticket(s) for Psychology and Me or contact psychologyevents@staffs.ac.uk for more information.

We look forward to seeing you there!


Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Understanding suicidal ideation and behaviour in individuals with chronic pain

Our Professor Karen Rodham explains the background, findings and future directions for her recent published review.

Why did we conduct our review?

Some research suggests that those who live with chronic pain are at higher risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour.

Much work has explored how different psychological factors might influence suicidal behaviour in helpful as well as unhelpful ways. Similarly much work has looked at how different psychological factors might help as well as hinder those who are trying to cope with chronic pain. Very little work has compared both pain and suicidal behaviour research areas.

Professor Karen Rodham

What did we focus on?

We wanted to explore this gap and look closely at the research in the chronic pain and suicidal behaviour fields to see if there were any common factors on which researchers could focus their attention in future studies.

How did we conduct our searches?

Our search of the research published between 2008 and 2018 produced 21,392 possible articles. After we had screened the papers for their relevance we identified 52 to include in our review. While we were reviewing them a further 17 papers were identified. This meant that we looked in depth at total of 69 papers.

Table with the word research written on with people sat around working together.

What were our findings?

We found that there were three promising areas that cut across both the suicide and the chronic pain research fields:

  1. Future Orientation: How people feel about their expected and imagined future
  2. Mental Imagery: How certain kinds of images in our mind’s eye can impact on how we feel.
  3. Psychological Flexibility: How our ability to accept our situation can impact on how we feel.

How you could use this research:

We suggest that greater cross over between the chronic pain and suicide research fields is really important if we are to increase our understanding of why some people with chronic pain are at greater risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour. These three areas would be a good place to start.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Visiting speaker talk on bisexuality and health promotion

Dr Katie Wright-Bevans, a Lecturer in Social Psychology from Keele University, joined us on 23rd January 2020 to deliver an insightful visiting speaker talk on bisexuality and health promotion.

What type of Psychologist is Katie?

Katie is a critical social, health and community psychologist. Therefore, Katie draws upon a variety of perspectives when looking into different topic areas.

What kind of approaches does Katie take?

Drawing upon her perspectives Katie uses social representation theory, qualitative measures and action research approaches when designing and analysing her research.

But what does this mean?

The foundations to Katie’s research enable her to:

  1. Gain understanding of the mechanisms behind health and social inequalities;
  2. Facilitate positive social change.

Katie’s bisexuality and health promotion research:

Katie approaches her research into the LGBTQ+ community with an apolitical stance. Katie worked alongside colleagues from other institutions on the research project she talked about. This was inspiring as it allowed people to work together to design and analyse the research project so that it was considered from many points of view.
You can read national reports on bisexuality and health promotion from Stonewall and the Government.

How many participants?

840 individuals from around the globe participated in Katie’s research. This led to over a thousand pages of open-ended survey responses!

Key themes from the research:

Thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. This is the process of reading through people’s responses and drawing on commonalities and differences across the data set. These responses are explored to see whether any key messages can be found from within the data.

Katie is continuing to analyse the dataset. To date she has found that sexual identities mostly hinge upon the degree of empowerment or oppression experienced within the social institutions in an individual’s life. She also found a strong theme across participants that the pursuit of wellbeing was the ultimate goal.

Key messages from the talk:

Bisexuality and health promotion is a key area for research due to the findings from recent reports because:

  • Lower mental health compared with other LGBTQ+ groups.
  • Sense of isolation from LGBT and straight communities.

Working in research teams allows Psychologists to conduct research from a range of perspectives and approaches.


Thank you to Katie for sharing her research with us and we look forward to hearing more about the research in the future!


Missed the talk? Follow the visiting speaker series and see upcoming speakers!


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Men living with Bipolar Disorder wanted for a research study!

By Craig Burman (DClinPsy Trainee, supervised by Dr Robert Dempsey)

I am a Trainee Clinical Psychologist working in the NHS and am currently looking for participants to take part in my research study. I am interested in exploring your experiences of managing mood symptoms.

Due to the under-representation of men in this type of research, I am looking for male participants only. This is to make sure that male voices and perspectives are heard.

You will be asked to take some photographs which represent your experiences of managing mood symptoms. You are encouraged to be as creative as you like with this! These photographs will then be used to guide an interview about your experiences.

If this sounds like it might be for you (or you would just like to know a bit more) then please contact me by either email (c.burman@student.staffs.ac.uk) or by phone (07547 330408). Please be aware that my research phone will only be turned on Monday to Friday from 9am-5pm.

Please note participants must be at least 18 years old to take part. To make sure that I am studying a relatively similar sample, participants must also have been diagnosed within the last 5 years.

Many thanks for taking the time to read this advert.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Craig


The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research is home to research activity in the Psychology Department at Staffordshire University. The Centre houses a number of research-active psychologists who are engaged in research across a wide range of psychological subdisciplines.

For more details about the Centre, its research activities, events and consultancy, please visit our website (click here).

Student Blog: Undertaking my BPS Undergraduate Research Assistantship

By Megan Lomas, BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development student

The BPS Undergraduate Assistantship Award marks out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. It allows students to work alongside a senior researcher to develop skills in research development as well as research measures. With the support and supervision of Dr. Sarah Rose, I decided to apply for this Award to carry out research into the potential of mindfulness colouring for reducing exam anxiety among A-Level pupils.

Although I was nervous when applying for the Assistantship, the application process was also exciting as I could focus on a topic that was of great interest to me. My interest in reducing anxiety felt by A-level pupils preparing for their exams came in part from my own experience. A-level exams are one of the most crucial points in education; pressure to do well is increased as the next stages is to move on to study at University, apply for a job or for an apprenticeship, all of which require good grades. The colouring aspect of this research came from the expertise of Dr Sarah Rose. Sarah’s expertise gave me the confidence to want to assess mindfulness-based colouring as a means of reducing the anxiety induced by exams.

As I prepared the application form, I enjoyed carrying out in depth reading about exam anxiety and mindfulness-based colouring interventions. It was also a great opportunity to put my knowledge of research design that I had already developed during the first 18 months of my degree in Psychology and Child Development into practice. I not only to think of what research I wanted to conduct but, also how I would go about measuring and collecting the data from participants. In particular, the experience that I had gained during the Research Assistantship Module, which had allowed me to develop skill in data collection, helped me to plan what I would need to do.

When choosing the materials for the study I wanted to take measures as accurately as possible, so I decided to combine self-report measures and physiological measures. This led me to use a BioPac, this was a great opportunity to learn about a new piece of equipment under the guidance of Paul Gallimore, one of the Psychology Technicians. Under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Rose, I selected questionnaires to assess state anxiety and mindfulness. The conditions were constructed based on past research and past interventions including mindfulness colouring. This led me to use mandala colouring, both with and without the addition of mindfulness instructions, and a control condition in which participants spent time doing a free drawing.

Originally we had planned to try and collect data from 90 A-level pupils but due to various delays this was not possible as the exam period was almost over when we began data collection. So, although I collected a small amount of pilot data which gave me valuable experience in working with colleges, I plan to collect data again next summer.   

To make the most of the Research Assistantship we decided to write up our plan for the research as a preregistered report. This means that we have submitted the introduction and method sections to a journal and are now awaiting their feedback. Writing this was interesting as it differed more than I expected to the write up of a laboratory report. It requires a lot more references to past research as well as a description of how we intended to analyse the data.

We have also submitted a poster for the BPS Annual conference next year. I found this more interesting and fun to create as I was able to think about how to make the deign engaging. The poster required an outline of why the research was being conducted, what we expected to find, how we were going to collect and analyse the data. Both the preregistered report and the poster have helped me to learn how to write more concisely and to report research in an accurate and detailed manor. The Research Assistantship has given me an insight into what being a researcher is like and helped me to develop skills that will be useful for my third-year project and my future research career.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Digital World and Me

Are you intrigued to find out more about how the Digital World that surrounds all of us might be influencing you? The Psychology Department is excited to be hosting an ESRC Festival of Social Science event ‘Digital World and Me’ on the evening of the 7th November.

There will be three short TED-style talks in which you will discover cutting edge research about the internet, television and gaming. These will be followed by refreshments and a range of interactive demonstrations in which you can find out more about the way that you interact with the digital world and the impact that it may be having on you.

Thursday 7th November, 18.30 – 20.30, Beacon Building, Staffordshire University


Book Tickets: Reserve your (free) space at https://digitalworldandme.eventbrite.com  or contact psychologyevents@staffs.ac.uk for more information.


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.

Free Resource Packs for Practice Nurses Working with patients with Type 2 Diabetes

Dr Rachel Povey (Associate Professor of Health Psychology, Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) has some FREE Resource Packs to give away which she has designed to help practice nurses to motivate their patients with type 2 diabetes to make dietary changes. The resource packs are based on Rachel’s research funded by the European Association for the Study of Diabetes with GlaxoSmithKline which explored the beliefs of people with type 2 diabetes about healthy eating. The packs were informed by studies with both patients and nurses and include nine useful resources which have been designed specifically so that they can be copied and given out to patients. 

The Resource Pack that Rachel has developed consists of a number of psychological “tools” including resources which help patients in “weighing up the pros and cons” of eating more healthily, “estimating portion sizes”, “planning changes” and “useful techniques for keeping motivated”. Alongside the resources is a useful practical guide with suggestions and techniques for encouraging patients to make dietary changes from motivating change to making and maintaining the changes.

The Resource Pack has been used as the basis of a very successful training programme for practice nurses, and we are delighted to be able to give some away for FREE

Feedback from practitioners who have used this resource include: 

“The resources will be very useful for patients. Clear advice for them …very useful for me when talking to patients”.

“Just to let you know have seen 3 people with diabetes since Wednesday and we have used the tools and set realistic goals in dietary change”.

If you would like one of these resource packs, please email Rachel directly: r.povey@staffs.ac.uk


Staffordshire University – The Home of Health Psychology

Staffordshire University has a history of excellence in teaching and research in Health Psychology, and is home to Staffordshire’s BPS Accredited Stage 1 MSc in Health Psychology and Stage 2 Professional Doctorate in Health Psychology. The Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research has active team of Health Psychologists who conduct research and provide consultancy in a range of health-related issues.

Keep updated with the latest Health Psychology news from Staffordshire University via following us on @StaffsPsych and via the #HealthPsychStaffs hashtag.

For further information about Health Psychology courses and research at Staffordshire University please visit the following webpages:

Student Blog: Applied Research MSc and beyond

By Sophia Fedorowicz, MSc by Applied Research student

What is master’s study all about? Twelve months ago, I would have described it as a stepping stone to PhD. As a way of expanding knowledge before committing to a PhD or perhaps a way of qualifying for some kinds of clinical practice, such as occupational therapy masters courses. I think many students think about masters courses that way and some even hop over that stage of study completely and go straight for PhD. I completed an MSc taught course one week ago and now I feel very different about master’s level study. Yes, it is training course to give you skills for what comes next, whether that be PhD or practice, but it is also an arena for growth and experimentation. I wish I had known this before I started so here I am to pass on the hard won knowledge.

A level 7 course situates you in a place where you are free to try new approaches, explore new ideas and network the dickens out of conferences whilst developing your professional identity. Here is a place where you can explore the culture of the discipline you have chosen, read outside the curriculum, outside of seminal texts, even cult pamphlets if you want to, so you can understand more about your area, what is happening in that area and where you want to fit into it.

My broad area of interest is mental health and I went into my master’s from a psychology undergraduate course not really knowing where I would go with it. I just knew that I wanted to learn more. In the past year I have undertaken two applied experience placements, written blogs, spoken to people from every area of mental health from academics to practitioners in many different areas to people in the third sector supporting people with mental distress. I have presented at a conference and gone on a trip to York University to volunteer with the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group and written so many essays. I have taken every opportunity to explore what kind of researcher I want to be, what my passion is and how I want to develop after the course. All of this would not have been possible without the support of my small group of peers, this experience had taught me the value of connecting with other students and how powerful just meeting up for a coffee is in terms of personal wellbeing. I have been exceptionally busy for months and months at a time and have developed some tried and tested, armour-clad stress management strategies as a result.

Moving forward, I am starting a PhD this year and I couldn’t be more sure that it is the right thing for me to do. The topic is right, the approach is right, the supervisors are right, and I feel like a different person from my undergraduate self. I feel like an early career researcher with a point of view, connections under my belt and a career ahead of me. From my perspective, that’s what master’s study is all about.



Bio: Sophia Fedorowicz is a PhD student exploring experiences of suicide risk assessments, bringing experts by experience into the research process and working to develop guidelines to improve the assessments. Areas of interest include public and patient involvement and engagement and how individuals experience and communicate experiences of mental distress. She loves collaboration and coffee so get in touch if you want to connect.

Twitter: @Soph_Fedorowicz / @_LESRA_

Website: www.sophiafedorowicz.com


The Department of Psychology at Staffordshire University offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Psychology at the University’s £30 million Science Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The department is home to the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research, a large and active group of psychologists, PhD students and researchers conducting work into a variety of psychological disciplines and topic areas.

Interested in a Psychology degree? Come to an Open Day – for further details and to book your place at an open day please click here.