Autism research team invited on to national network

Six members of Welcome Research Hub - Helen Hancock (Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit); Dr Jacqui Stedmon; Dr Becky McKenzie; Tara Vassallo (parent representative); Elinor Pegg (Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit); Professor Rudi Dallos

A research team developing a support package for people with autism and their families has been invited to join a national research network. 

The Welcome Research Hub – comprised of academics from the School of Psychology, Plymouth Institute of Education and Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry (PUPSMD) – will be joining charity Autistica’s ‘Discover’ Research Network. 

‘Discover’ aims to make a difference to people’s lives through research; involve more autistic people in studies; enable researchers to do bigger and better research; and cement the UK as a world leader in autism research. 

The Welcome Research Hub was launched last summer, and is working alongside a number of families living with autism to identify where support is lacking and refine an intervention, known as Systematic Autism-related Family Enabling (SAFE), to help them.

The team’s current research is being made possible thanks to £90,000 from Autistica UK, and an exploratory trial is being managed by Peninsula Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Plymouth thanks to £250,000 funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Dr Becky McKenzie, Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and founder of the Welcome Research Hub, said that joining the network highlights the importance of the work being done in Plymouth, and hoped it would enable collaborations to strengthen further work.

“We’re delighted that the Welcome Research Hub has been recognised as a leader in national autism research,” she said. “The ‘Discover’ network will open up so many opportunities such as workshops, events and collaboration opportunities – which we really hope will help us to involve, and have a real impact on, people with autism and their families. Our current work to refine the SAFE intervention will hopefully be leading onto a national trial, and being able to reach those families who would most benefit from the work will be so valuable.”