Sue Fletcher-Watson's research while affiliated with The University of Edinburgh and other places

Publications (131)

Article
Introduction - Despite extensive debate surrounding mental health services in the UK, there is little empirical evidence regarding the views of those who use them. We therefore used data collected as part of a wider survey to examine satisfaction amongst those seeking treatment from mental and physical health services. Methods – An online survey de...
Article
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One factor that may influence how executive functions develop is exposure to more than one language in childhood. This study explored the impact of bilingualism on inhibitory control in autistic (n = 38) and non-autistic children (n = 51). Bilingualism was measured on a continuum of exposure to investigate the effects of language environment on two...
Preprint
Background: While being bilingual (knowing 2 or more languages) is becoming a more common experience globally, little is known about the combined experience of bilingualism and autism. Research currently available focuses on quantifying language and cognitive development, and the only two qualitative accounts of first-hand experiences are from eith...
Preprint
Background Preterm birth is associated with atypical cognitive and socioemotional outcomes in childhood. Secure infant attachment protects against adverse outcomes, but could be modified by alterations in the early caregiving environment inherent to essential neonatal intensive care or co-morbidities of preterm birth. We aimed to test the hypothesi...
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There is evidence that autistic children may have reduced executive function skills, contributing to day-to-day difficulties, but much remains unknown regarding the influence of bilingualism. We investigated its influence on sustained attention, interference control, flexible switching and working memory, in Arabic-English autistic (n = 27) and typ...
Article
In infancy, stress responses and emotion regulation are often coupled. Both are impacted by prematurity, though their relationship to one another in the case of infants born preterm is not fully understood. We investigated emotion regulation behaviours, cortisol reactivity and recovery and coupling between emotion regulation and cortisol reactivity...
Chapter
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Given the emphasis on social and communication difficulties in the diagnostic criteria of autism, and the pivotal role they play in development generally, these domains are commonly key targets for autism interventions. This chapter provides an overview of different types of traditional social interventions, and evaluate their effectiveness and val...
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Receiving a diagnosis of autism in adulthood can be a life changing event, impacting identity, relationships, and mental health. A lack of post-diagnostic support has been highlighted by autistic adults, their allies, clinicians, and service providers. It can be a source of distress for autistic adults, reinforcing feelings of social isolation and...
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Background Routinely-collected mental health data could deliver novel insights for mental health research. However, patients’ willingness to share their mental health data remains largely unknown. We investigated factors influencing likelihood of sharing these data for research purposes amongst people with and without experience of mental illness....
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Visual field biases have been identified as markers of atypical lateralization in children with developmental conditions, but this is the first investigation to consider early lateralized gaze behaviors for social stimuli in preterm infants. Eye‐tracking methods with 51 preterm (33 male, 92.1% White) and 61 term‐born (31 male, 90.1% White) infants...
Article
In their comprehensive and articulate paper on the Transdiagnostic Revolution in Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Astle, Holmes, Kievit and Gathercole (2021) ‘consider how well current classifications of neurodevelopmental disorders serve our understanding’. They examine the lack of mapping between clinical diagnoses such as ADHD or autism and researc...
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Background: Preterm birth can lead to impaired language development. This study aimed to predict language outcomes at 2 years corrected gestational age (CGA) for children born preterm. Methods: We analysed data from 89 preterm neonates (median GA 29 weeks) who underwent diffusion MRI (dMRI) at term-equivalent age and language assessment at 2 yea...
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Preterm birth is associated with reduced social attention in infancy. Are these early social attention differences linked to later interactive ability? This study draws on a well‐characterized preterm cohort in whom we have previously demonstrated a reduced attentional preference for social information in infancy, using eye‐tracking. States of enga...
Article
Background: Children born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation) are at risk for several adverse childhood outcomes. Parent priorities for research into these outcomes, and preferences for receiving information about these risks, have not previously been established. Here we report the results of an online survey designed to understand parent prior...
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Background: Autism is considered to entail a social impairment whereby autistic people experience difficulty interpreting others' mental states. However, recent research has shown that nonautistic people also have difficulty understanding the mental states of autistic people. This mismatch of understanding may explain lower rapport in interactions...
Preprint
Autism is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental condition, with prevalence estimated at 1 in 100 people worldwide (Elsabbagh et al., 2012). Autism is diagnosed by behavioural presentation, and although there is substantial variability both within autistic people across the lifespan, and between autistic individuals, a set of core diagnostic criteri...
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Bilingualism is a valuable tool that enriches and facilitates cultural, social and lived experiences for autistic and non-autistic people alike. Research consistently finds no negative effects of bilingualism and highlights the potential for positive effects across cognitive and socio-cultural domains for autistic and non-autistic children. Yet par...
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Autistic children are thought to develop social attention skills differently from non-autistic children. Previous work has shown that technology, and specifically tangible toys, could have the potential to support social attention in autistic children. A key challenge is knowing how to design and use interactive and intelligent technologies to supp...
Preprint
Research suggests that autistic children show reduced attentional preferences to social stimuli early in development, and these differences have consequences in a range of social and language domains. One factor that could positively influence development in those same processes is dual language exposure. Although there are a handful of studies foc...
Article
Background: Children born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation) are at risk for several adverse childhood outcomes. Parent priorities for research into these outcomes, and preferences for receiving information about these risks, have not previously been established. Here we report the results of an online survey designed to understand parent prior...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Mental health research is commonly affected by difficulties in recruiting and retaining participants, resulting in findings which are based on a sub-sample of those actually living with mental illness. Increasing the use of Big Data for mental health research, especially routinely-collected data, could improve this situation. However, s...
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Purpose of Review Inclusive research practice is both a moral obligation and a practical imperative. Here we review its relevance to the study of neurodevelopmental diversity in particular, briefly describing a range of inclusive research models and justifying their use. The review itself is inclusively co-authored with three autistic collaborators...
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Children born preterm are at increased risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and subclinical attention problems. The ADHD profile that presents following prematurity has been characterized by inattention without impulsivity or hyperactivity. This supports the existence of a preterm attentional phenotype. This review aims to exami...
Preprint
A distinct feature of autism is difficulties in several aspects of executive functioning. One factor that may influence how executive functions develop is exposure to more than one language in childhood. This study explored the impact of bilingualism on inhibitory control in autistic (n = 38) and non-autistic children (n = 51). Bilingualism was mea...
Article
Full-text available
Background Restricted and repetitive behaviours vary greatly across the autism spectrum, and although not all are problematic some can cause distress and interfere with learning and social opportunities. We have, alongside parents, developed a parent group based intervention for families of young children with autism, which aims to offer support to...
Preprint
Children born preterm (before 37 weeks of gestation) are at risk for several adverse childhood outcomes. Parent priorities for research into these outcomes, and preferences for receiving information about these risks, have not previously been established. 149 parents of preterm children between the ages of 0 and 12 years from around the UK complete...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Mental health research is commonly affected by difficulties in recruiting and retaining participants, resulting in findings which are based on a sub-sample of those actually living with mental illness. Increasing the use of Big Data for mental health research, especially routinely-collected data, could improve this situation. However, st...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Routinely-collected mental health data could deliver novel insights for mental health research. However, patients' willingness to share their mental health data remains largely unknown. We investigated factors influencing likelihood of sharing these data for research purposes amongst people with experience of mental illness. Methods We c...
Article
Social cognitive abilities are affected by preterm birth, but pathways to, and risk factors for this outcome are not well mapped. We examined direct assessment tasks including objective coding of parent-child play to chart social development in infancy and pre-school years. A systematic search and data-extraction procedure yielded seventy-nine stud...
Preprint
Please note this paper is being peer-reviewed for publication in Autism in Adulthood:Nolte, K., Fletcher-Watson, S., Sorace, A., Stanfield, A., & Digard, B.G. (2021). Perspectives and experiences of autistic multilingual adults: A qualitative analysis. (Under revision for Autism in Adulthood)Please do not cite this preprint.Background: The combined...
Article
Full-text available
There is evidence to suggest that certain executive functions are impaired in autistic children, contributing to many daily challenges. Regular use of two languages has the potential to positively influence executive functions, though evidence is mixed. Little is known about the impact of bilingualism on the executive functions of autistic children...
Article
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The Double Empathy Problem suggests that communicative difficulties between autistic and non-autistic people are due to bi-directional differences in communicative style and a reciprocal lack of understanding. If true, there should be increased similarity in interaction style, resulting in higher rapport during interactions between pairs of the sam...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: Restricted and repetitive behaviours vary greatly across the autism spectrum, and although not all are problematic some can cause distress and interfere with learning and social opportunities. We have, alongside parents, developed a parent group based intervention for families of young children with autism, which aims to offer support t...
Article
Background: The UK hosts some of the world’s longest-running longitudinal cohort studies, which make repeated observations of their participants and use these data to explore health outcomes. An alternative method for data collection is record linkage; the linking together of electronic health and administrative records. Applied nationally, this co...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The UK hosts some of the world’s longest-running longitudinal cohort studies, which make repeated observations of their participants and use these data to explore health outcomes. An alternative method for data collection is record linkage; the linking together of electronic health and administrative records. Applied nationally, this co...
Article
Full-text available
Bottema-Beutel, Crowley, Sandbank, and Woynaroski (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2020) have performed a Herculean and invaluable task in their investigation of conflicts of interest (COIs) in nonpharmacological early autism intervention research. Drawing on a meta-analysis of 150 articles reporting group designs, they found COIs in 10...
Article
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Background and objectives: Preterm birth is associated with atypical social cognition in infancy, and cognitive impairment and social difficulties in childhood. Little is known about the stability of social cognition through childhood, and its relationship with neurodevelopment. We used eye-tracking in preterm and term-born infants to investigate...
Article
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Lay abstract: Bilingualism changes the way people relate to others. This is particularly interesting in the case of autism, where social interaction presents many challenges. A better understanding of the overlap between the social variations of bilingualism and autism could unveil new ways to support the social experiences of autistic people. Thi...
Preprint
Please note this paper has now been peer-reviewed and published.The published version can be found at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1362361320937845To cite, please use: Digard, B. G., Sorace, A., Stanfield, A., & Fletcher-Watson, S. (2020). Bilingualism in autism: Language learning profiles and social experiences. Autism. https://do...
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Developmental disorders and childhood learning difficulties encompass complex constellations of relative strengths and weaknesses across multiple aspects of learning, cognition, and behavior. Historically, debate in developmental psychology has been focused largely on the existence and nature of core deficits—the shared mechanistic origin from whic...
Preprint
This article examines the ways in which bilingualism influences social and cognitive development and identifies intersections between corresponding aspects of autism, to inform future research directions. Three key domains are identified: social cognition; executive functions; and social-cultural factors. In each case we describe the evidence for t...
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Lay abstract: Sharing information with other people relies on the ability to communicate well. Autism is defined clinically by deficits in social communication. It may therefore be expected that autistic people find it difficult to share information with other people. We wanted to find out whether this was the case, and whether it was different wh...
Article
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Lay abstract: Although autistic people may struggle to interact with others, many autistic people have said they find interacting with other autistic people more comfortable. To find out whether this was a common experience, we did hour-long interviews with 12 autistic adults. We asked them questions about how it feels when spending time with thei...
Article
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Introduction Preterm birth is closely associated with altered brain development and is a leading cause of neurodevelopmental, cognitive and behavioural impairments across the life course. We aimed to investigate neuroanatomic variation and adverse outcomes associated with preterm birth by studying a cohort of preterm infants and controls born at te...
Article
Full-text available
Background: The UK hosts some of the world’s longest-running longitudinal cohort studies, who make repeated observations of their participants and use these data to explore health outcomes. An alternative method for data collection is record linkage; the linking together of electronic health and administrative records. Applied nationally, this coul...
Article
Full-text available
BACKGROUND: The UK hosts some of the world’s longest-running longitudinal cohort studies, who make repeated observations of their participants and use these data to explore health outcomes. An alternative method for data collection is record linkage; the linking together of electronic health and administrative records. Applied nationally, this coul...
Article
Full-text available
Lay abstract: Digital supports are any type of technologies that have been intentionally developed to improve daily living in some way. A wide array of digital supports (such as apps) have been developed for the autism community specifically, but there is little or no evidence of whether they work or not. This study sought to identify what types o...
Preprint
Camouflaging is a frequently reported behaviour in autistic people, which entails the use of strategies to compensate for and mask autistic traits in social situations. Camouflaging is associated with poor mental health in autistic people. This study examined the manifestation of camouflaging in a non-autistic sample, examining the relationship bet...
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The myth of empathy deficits in autism.
Preprint
Many autistic people are motivated to have friends and relationships, and close family bonds, despite the fact that autism is clinically characterised as a condition negatively affecting social interaction. Many first-hand accounts of autistic people describe feelings of comfort and ease specifically with other autistic people. This qualitative res...
Preprint
Effective information transfer requires social communication skills. As autism is defined by social communication deficits, we might expect that information transfer between autistic people would be particularly deficient. We test this hypothesis by examining information transfer between autistic adults, neurotypical adults, and mixed autistic-with...
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Importance Successful acquisition of language is foundational for health and well-being across the life course and is patterned by medical and social determinants that operate in early life. Objective To investigate the associations of neighborhood disadvantage, gestational age, and English as first language with speech, language, and communicatio...
Article
In arguing that autistic people are socially motivated, Jaswal & Akhtar miss the opportunity to puncture the notion that social motivation is a prerequisite for humanity. Instead, we contend that some autistic people may indeed find social interactions to be unmotivating and that this doesn't have to be seen as a problem.
Conference Paper
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A key question is how technologies can influence social interaction in autistic children, and how opportunities for interaction can embedded into design. Here, we present observations from video recordings of autistic children playing with different technological interfaces and use cognitive event analysis (CEA) to identify instances of child-led i...
Article
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Capturing variability in use of commercial technologies by autistic children can inform future learning and support technology design. Survey data were collected from parents (n = 388) in the UK, Spain, and Belgium, and includes information about individuals with a range of ages and ability levels. We found a comparable pattern of access and usage...
Article
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An increasing body of genetic and imaging research shows that it is becoming possible to forecast the onset of major psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia before people become ill with ever improving accuracy. Practical issues such as the optimal combination of clinical and biological variables are being addressed, but the appl...
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There has been a rise of character portrayals of persons with Autism or autistic traits in TV and film. In this quantitative study we analyse 26 films and TV-shows with characters with Autistic traits and how these relate to diagnostic criteria in DSM-5. Out of all 26 portrayals, 20 showed at least 10 of all 12 symptom items. Our main findings indi...