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Durham University

Centre for Developmental Disorders

Launch Events - 2017

Coverage of the Centre for Developmental Disorders Launch

Article by Marie Alkan, Emine Gurbus, Liz Jones (PhD students in the Centre)

The official launch events for the Centre for Developmental Disorders took place on 22nd November 2017 in the Psychology Department at Durham University. We were very pleased to welcome members from a range of backgrounds to the event. This included researchers from multiple disciplines, clinicians, teachers, parents, and representatives from UK charities such as the Williams Syndrome Foundation, Down Syndrome North East, Fragile X Society, North East Autism Society and the National Autistic Society to name a few. Dr Deborah Riby (Director) and Dr Mary Hanley (Associate Director) welcomed the members, set out the vision for the Centre, and expressed their excitement for forging new collaborations. The Centre already features an active group of PhD students and will grow further with the start of new grants in 2018 and therefore this is an exciting time. The launch events also provided the idea opportunity for some of the PhD students and research assistants in the Centre to present research posters to a broad audience of academic and non-academic delegates.

During the launch events Mr Jarlath Tynan, representing the Williams Syndrome Association of Ireland, spoke candidly about his experience of anxiety as an adult with Williams syndrome. He emphasised how recent anxiety workshops, run by Dr Deborah Riby, Dr Mary Hanley and Dr Jacqui Rodgers (Newcastle), had enabled him to face his fear of flying and take a trip to Australia to visit family. Jarlath was a wonderful ambassador for adults with Williams syndrome and emphasised the importance of hearing their voices and involving adults with developmental disorders in research. Support for Williams syndrome research conducted in the Centre was further provided by Dr Neil Martin (Trustee of the WSF) who emphasised “On behalf of the Williams Syndrome Foundation, thank you for inviting us to the first public meeting of the ‘Centre’ which I thought was a huge success. I am confident that the close links with the Foundation will be very fruitful and that our members will continue to be actively engaged in future research.”

Similar support was provided by Becky Hardiman, CEO of the Fragile X Society:

“We are delighted to have a new Centre in the UK dedicated to researching Developmental Disorders. We are looking forward to working with the team to help to address some of the key questions and clinical needs facing individuals and families living with Fragile X Syndrome, as well as the broader community of people with developmental disorders. We are really pleased that the team opened up their launch event to include members of our charity, who had the opportunity to hear about the research that will be undertaken in the Centre, as well as hearing about Fragile X Syndrome from the keynote speaker Professor Gaia Scerif”

The highlight of the launch was an inspiring public lecture from Professor Gaia Scerif (University of Oxford). The public lecture was entitled, “From lab to classroom and back: How the science of developmental disorders translates to impact” and was attended by an audience of over 150 people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Professor Scerif, a leader in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders discussed her work spanning from genetics to intervention, the need for novel methods, and emphasised the importance of working in partnership with charities, parents and teachers.

These are very exciting times for the Centre with so much research and applied work to focus on in the future.......