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.

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.

Dr Sarah Rose comments on the Momo Challenge hoax for The Sentinel

Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Child Development, Award Leader – BSc (Hons) Psychology & Child Development) was featured in The Sentinel commenting on the Momo Challenge hoax. Dr Rose, who has conducted research into the effects of viewing TV on children’s creative play, comments on the possible effects of viewing the Momo hoax on both children and their parents, and the implications for children’s online behaviours.

You can read the reports of the Momo hoax, including Dr Rose’s comments, via The Sentinel website:

The Sentinel: Stoke-on-Trent schools warn parents about ‘sick’ Momo challenge – but is it all a hoax?


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.

Nuffield Placement Blog: Investigating the impact of TV viewing on children’s creativity

We have recently hosted a local college student on a Nuffield Research Placement. The student worked with Dr Sarah Rose (Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab, part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research) to develop a project investigating the impact of watching TV on children’s creativity. Here Manvir writes about his experience.

After a rigorous application process, I  was pleased to have been granted a 4-week placement at Staffordshire University in Psychology, provided by the Nuffield Research Foundation. My placement consisted of carrying out research within the field of child development, where I had to plan and set up a pilot study on the effects of television on 3- to 5-year-old children’s creativity.

My first week was very welcoming, I got a tour around the campus and got to meet many people such as members of staff, IT technicians, whom all aided me through my placement by providing me with the appropriate equipment, guidance etc. I received my workspace and received all the information I needed from my supervisor on the history and aims of my project.

The first couple days were just a matter of settling into the University and summoning the psychologist inside me! My first tasks were to plan out the step-by-step procedures we would use to collect the data. This involved me finding and editing suitable TV episode and audiobook which would appeal to the children at the nursery, writing a script, gathering relevant materials and creating data scoring sheets. Since the research involved working with young children, parental consent was required. The staff at the University Nursery, who were very kind and welcoming, distributed the forms to the children.

The two weeks of preparation flew by and before I knew it, it was time to begin the first day of the experiment! Me, Sarah and 3rd year Psychology Student Charlotte headed to the nursery where we set up and began the experiment in a separate quiet room. One by one children were introduced and taken through various fun activities such as naming everything they can think of that makes a noise, finding as many uses as they can for paper cups, acting like different animals, the list goes on. This was all done to measure their creativity prior and after either listening to or watching a magical story from CBeebies. The children all reacted differently, some thought hard, some laughed, some were confused, but nevertheless they all came up with some great ideas and just watching the children actively engage in the tasks was so thrilling to watch as a researcher. All the procedures went to plan, phew!

After three days of conducting the experiment, it was then my job to score and tally the results and present them on a chart. Finally, on my last week of the placement my task was to write up and create a poster on everything I done in my placement, this included the aims, methodology, results, references, etc. I found it so difficult to sum up such an action packed few weeks in one poster that I struggled to fit everything in!

Overall, I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Staffordshire University, I am proud to of been a part of the research and grateful for Nuffield Research on providing me with the placement and if possible, I would do it all again!


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.

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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Pack away (some of) the Christmas toys!

Did your child get lots of toys for Christmas? Are you struggling to find places to store them all?

Dr Sarah Rose, Director of the Psychology Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University reports on some new research suggesting that having fewer toys may actually be better!

Researchers at the University of Toledo in Ohio gave 36 toddlers either 4 or 16 toys to play with for a 30-minute period. Their play was observed and analysed for indicators of play quality. It was concluded that when fewer toys were present children spent longer playing with each toy, showed better concentration, and were more creative as they expanded and developed their play ideas.

This study is a useful reminder to parents, and anyone working with children, that toddlers are easily distracted. Toddlers are developing their ability to focus their attention and steps that can be taken to support this are likely to have long term positive consequences. Attention is vital for academic success and young children with better attentional skills maintain this advantage as they get older.

Not only was having fewer toys found to beneficial to helping toddlers to sustain their attention it also encouraged them to explore and be more creative with the toys. Creativity is another skill that is developed in early childhood and as associated with many positive attributes such as educational achievement, well-being and success at work.

This evidence supports the idea of toy rotation. This involves small collections of toys being rotated into play while the majority are stored away. This provides opportunities for developing sustained attention and creativity while still providing children with novel and varied play experiences.

Further research in this area is needed, particularly relating to play in the home environment, where there are often additional distractions such as background Television and other screen media. The impact of screen time on children’s developing creativity is a topic that we are investigating within our Psychology Children’s Lab. If you are a parent of a 3 to 8 year old child please do consider taking part in our online survey – further details can be found here.

Dr Sarah Rose was also featured in The Sentinel newspaper providing commentary on this recent research finding (click here to read the full story).


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.

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.

For more information about the Psychology degrees on offer at Staffordshire University please visit the below pages:

Dr Sarah Rose featured in a Q&A with the Parenting Science Gang on Children’s TV viewing and creativity

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Psychology & Director of the Children’s Lab at Staffordshire University) was featured in a live Question and Answer web chat with the Parenting Science Gang, a parent-led citizen science project funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Dr Rose discussed her research into the effects of viewing TV on children’s creativity, including the development of novel ways of measuring children’s creative thinking through play-based tasks and her work into children’s drawings.

Read Dr Rose’s interview via the Parenting Science Gang’s website (click here).

Dr Rose is also the Course Leader for Staffordshire University’s BSc (Hons) Psychology and Child Development degree, one of only a hand of such degrees in the country.


Interested in Psychology? Thinking about a Psychology degree?

Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate courses and Postgraduate awards.

Guidelines on children’s screen time need to be built on evidence

Dr Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Director of the Staffordshire Children’s Lab) blogs about a recent debate in the media regarding the effects of screen time on children’s development and wellbeing:

A letter published in the Guardian on Christmas day claimed that ‘Screen-based lifestyle harms children’s health’. This was signed by a group of forty writers, psychologists and charity heads who argued that national guidelines on screen based technology are required.

May16 SR Screen free week pic1

The claims for the links between and increasing screen-based lifestyle and children’s wellbeing are not supported by the evidence. I am delighted to have been able to add my support to this response from a group of academics and expert practitioners published by the Guardian last week. In this we argue that screen time guidelines need to be built on evidence, not hype or scaremongering.

Of course the wellbeing of children is important and the impact of screen-based lifestyle requires investigation but currently there is insufficient research evidence on which to base National Guidelines. Rather than focusing on quantity alone, evidence is needed regarding context of use (where, when and how digital media are accessed), content (what is being watched or used), and connections (whether and how relationships are facilitated or impeded).


Staffs-Uni-Hi-Res_45-1024x683Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Thinking about taking a Psychology degree or a related course?

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out about our Psychology degrees, including our highly rated BSc Psychology & Child Development degree and our Undergraduate and Postgraduate courses.

New research investigates the role of education in developing children’s drawing abilities

Dr. Sarah Rose (Lecturer in Developmental Psychology and Director of the Staffordshire Children’s Lab) discusses research carried out with Dr Richard Jolley (Senior Lecturer in Psychology) which investigates the extent to which children’s drawing abilities differ in two contrasting educational settings.

Dr Richard Jolley and Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Richard Jolley and Dr Sarah Rose

Dr. Rose explains that although there has been over 100 years’ of research investigating how children’s drawing develop, very little attention has been given to the influence of education on their development. In order to address this gap in our understanding drawings produced by pupils (age 6 to 16 years) who attended Mainstream and Steiner schools were compared.

These two school types were chosen as they have contrasting approaches to teaching drawing. Whereas in the Mainstream schools observational and expressive drawing skills are taught concurrently, in the Steiner schools the emphasis is on imaginative and expressive drawings, with observational drawing skills not being taught until children are 12-years old.  In addition, the amount of time, and the artistry of the teachers have also been identified as defining features of Steiner schools.

Pupils were asked to complete six drawings; three expressing a particular mood (happy, sad and angry), an observational drawing of an artist’s mannequin, a representational drawing of a house that they had seen and a free drawing. Local artist were involved in scoring all the drawings for the level of drawing skill demonstrated.

Considering the differing emphasis of the art education experienced by the pupils at the two school types the results of the research were somewhat surprising.  Steiner pupils, including those in the younger age groups, were better at the observational and representational drawing tasks compared to those in Mainstream schools.  However, their expressive and free drawings were rated very similarly. This evidence suggests that maybe art teaching does not have as much impact on drawing ability as might be thought. However, it is also possible that actually the approaches to teaching drawing in these two schools may not be as different as the curricula suggest.

sr1

Two free drawings by 16-year-old pupils: one attending a Mainstream school (right) and one attending a Steiner school (left)

Drs Rose and Jolley are hoping to carry out further research in this area to investigate the impact of differing experiences of art education within Mainstream schools.

Rose, S. E. & Jolley, R. P. (2016).  Drawing Development in Mainstream and Waldorf Steiner Schools RevisitedPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts, 10, 447-457.

The Children’s Lab is home to developmental psychology research at Staffordshire University and is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Staffordshire University offers a range of psychology degrees which are characterised by our research-informed teaching by active research staff.

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out more about our Psychology degrees here!

Dr Sarah Rose featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing findings from her Children’s TV and Creativity research

Jan 16 Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose

Dr Sarah Rose, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology & Award Leader for the BSc Psychology & Child Development degree, has been featured on BBC Radio Stoke discussing the latest findings from her research into the effects of Children’s TV viewing on creativity. Dr Rose also directs the Children’s Lab, home to developmental psychology research at Staffordshire University.

Sarah explained her recent findings, which suggest some time limited effects of TV on children’s creativity, on the Pete Morgan Breakfast Show on Monday 3rd October 2016:

The Children’s Lab is part of the Staffordshire Centre for Psychological Research which is home to psychological research at Staffordshire University.

For more information about the Children’s Lab, their research and ongoing studies seeking participants please click here.


Interested in Psychology? Come to an Open Day & find out more about Psychology courses at Staffordshire University.

Intrigued by Dr Sarah Rose’s research? Wonder whether screen time is actually having more negative than positive effects on child health and development? Staffordshire University offers a range of psychology degrees which are characterised by our research-informed teaching by active research staff.

Come to one of Staffordshire University’s Open Days and find out more! Book your place via: www.staffs.ac.uk/openyourmind/

Find out more about our Psychology degrees here!