Head of Autism Research and Development


Research Projects

Browse our current research projects and get involved in making a difference for our children and adults living with autism.

Clem Burke Drumming Project+

This research project is being conducted by the research staff at Hartpury University in collaboration with Abbot’s Lea School.

This project will involve some of the students participating in a drumming course and completing a number of simple tests of coordination and motor skill.  Half of the selected children will take part in the drumming lessons and the remaining half will participate in other activities not involving drumming. Some of the drum kits will be donated to the school at the end of the project, so everyone will be able to participate in the musical activities at some point (either as part of the project or after its completion).

At the end of the project, we might invite some families to discuss the experience in an open meeting.

This project was generously funded by Youth Music.

Our drumming tutor: Luigi Marino, PhD
Contact person in school: Sara Mursic, Head of Autism Research and Development

Info Sheet for Families

Ask, Listen, Act 2021+

A group of our students participated in a research project Ask, Listen, Act in December 2021. We are proud to share the findings and policy priorities summarised by Liverpool John Moores University. These priorities, set by young people with SEND across the country, will influence decision-making at the national level.

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Triple-A projects and resources+

Dear Parents, Staff and Friends of Abbot’s Lea School,

Thank you from everyone at the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development at Durham University for the recent opportunity to talk to you in our recent webinar on ‘Triple-A: Attention, Arousal and Anxiety at School’. It was lovely to have the chance to come back to you and tell you about what we have found in our research on the impact of the school environment on engagement and learning for autistic pupils, especially as some of the pupils from Abbot’s Lea took part in this work. We are looking forward to launching our support packing in January. For anyone who missed the webinar and would like to hear more, please see a link here to the recording: https://durhamuniversity.zoom.us/rec/share/Sk1yNHFBB7J20jLfA7kQXkjC_SW-rHUF-Oo7WKMENjyKRNlimffUBxkVaD36QZRw.UoaT5F0b3JTn5aVL  (Passcode: 8*Fm7gQ$)

We work hard to ensure that our research can have impact with the people for whom it is most relevant. We also really rely on children, parents and families taking part in research to be able to do this work.

We have two studies currently running for which we are looking for parents and autistic adolescents to participate.

  • The first (led by Rhys Proud) involves online interviews with autistic adolescents (aged 12-17 years) to really try to understand friendships and social interaction.
  • The second study (led by Dr Aloka Rudra) is about understanding sensory differences and how they are associated with different experiences (anxiety) and everyday life (ability to manage daily activities). This is a parent questionnaire study and for this one we are looking for parents of children who have autism, or autism and ADHD. Aloka now only needs a small number of families to complete this study.

Both of these studies can be done from home. Please see flyers for more details and who to contact for taking part. We would really appreciate your help with this work, and would be delighted to come back to Abbot’s Lea to tell you what we find.

Thanks again for your continued support!

Mary, Debbie and the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development

mary.hanley@durham.ac.uk ; deborah.riby@durham.ac.uk


Instagram @tripleaprojectdurham

Sibling relationships+

We’ve been approached by a member of the Child and Adolescent Neurodevelopmental Diversity research team at the University of York who is interested in sibling relationships and how they affect autistic adolescents’ feelings and behaviours. The primary investigator, Emre Deniz, would like to invite you to complete a 15-20-minute online survey by clicking the below link.


You can participate if you fulfil both of the criteria below:

  1. Having at least one autistic child aged 9 to 20 years,
  2. Having at least one neurotypical child aged 4-20 years,

Amazon Vouchers

To thank you for your time, you will be provided with a £5 Amazon voucher. You will also be entered in a prize draw to have a chance to win a £50 or £100 Amazon voucher.

This study has been reviewed and received ethical approval from the University of York. If you have any queries about this survey, please contact the researcher directly on  emre.deniz@york.ac.uk.

Movement Matters Liverpool+

The main aim of this project is to improve physical activity and motor competence in children with learning disabilities who live in the Liverpool City Region

Phase 1: co-production with practitioners, parents and experts

The workshops would focus around sharing thoughts and opinions in a group setting with other stakeholders. Example discussion points could be what you think currently prevents or facilitates children with intellectual disabilities from engaging in physical activity and what you believe our programme should be implementing to improve the physical activity levels and motor competence of children with intellectual disabilities.

Participants will experience professional development through improving their knowledge and understanding around physical activity and education, as well as health and wellbeing. They would also be in a room with a wide range of local stakeholders who will all have experiences of working with children with learning disabilities, and we will encourage small group discussions between all stakeholders which would provide excellent opportunities for networking and again, learning from each other’s experiences. There is no obligation to participate in all of the workshops, the dates are below:

  • Thursday 21st October
  • Thursday 18th November
  • Tuesday 14th December

The workshops will be taking place in a University building in the city centre. We are considering two potential time slots for these dates, either 1-4pm or 4-7pm (this later time slot would include food and snacks to help with being there through tea time!).

More information to follow, but feel free to email our team (sara.mursic@abbotsleaschool.co.uk) or the researchers () for more information.

Teacher Retention+

Masters research questionnaire about staffing retention and will be used to inform P4 priorities and actions. The greater the response, the more valid the data and information about teacher retention in the city.

You can access the survey here: https://liverpoolmanagement.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bIQtKJtEwFo8kzI

The aim of this survey is to gather teachers’ views on job satisfaction and teacher retention. It will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. The questionnaire is entirely anonymous, and it will not be possible to identify your individual response.

This study has been reviewed and received ethical approval from the University of Liverpool. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Andrew Fell (a.g.fell@liverpool.ac.uk) or Dr Jwharh Madgali (J.A.Madgali@liverpool.ac.uk).

Review of Global Autism Research in 2021

Participatory Research

  • Participatory research in autism is not new, but conversations around the practice — which involves close collaboration between scientists and autistic people to design and conduct studies — reached new heights this year.
  • A comprehensive personal account from autistic postdoctoral researcher Monique Botha tackled unacknowledged ableism in the autism research community. Intense debate followed the launch and subsequent pause of Spectrum 10K, a planned genome-sequencing project in the United Kingdom that some autistic people saw as misaligned with its stated goals of helping people on the spectrum; the project’s leaders announced that they would engage in a deeper dialogue with autistic people before restarting. And a rare look at researchers’ perceptions of the process reiterated that researchers’ willingness to work with autistic people is only the first step.
  • Read more about the Spectrum 10K project and the backlash from the autistic community
  • Read more about partnerships between autistic people and researchers
  • Meet autistic researchers who are redefining the field

Sex differences

  • Because autism is most often diagnosed in boys, researchers have a history of ignoring girls with the condition. But that bias is changing, as evidenced by an increasing number of studies on sex differences in autism.
  • Traits such as aggression and communication problems are related in autistic boys but not autistic girls, one study from 2021 showed. Another found that autistic women and girls pay more attention to faces than autistic men and boys do — which, along with the fact that autistic girls have an increased likelihood of having a co-occurring condition, may explain some of the diagnostic bias.
  • Read more about the differences in brain activity patterns connected with girls on the spectrum

Masking strategies and consequences

*extra* Avoiding Ableist Language

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