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.