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Durham University

Centre for Developmental Disorders

Seattle Club Conference 2017

Seattle Club Conference 2017 - The annual conference for research on intellectual and developmental disabilities

We were very pleased to be able to host the 17th annual Seattle Club conference in the Department of Psychology on 18-19th December 2017. The Seattle Club is an annual meeting for researchers in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in the UK and Ireland and the conference moves to a different location each year – so we were thrilled to be able to bring the conference to the Centre and to beautiful Durham.

We were overwhelmed by the high number of abstracts submitted to the conference and were pleased to be able to put together an exciting programme of talks, posters, and social networking opportunities (e.g. the conference meal in Collingwood College) for the two-day event – all within the special remit of the Seattle Club. For example, the conference had one session of talks, plenty of time was dedicated to poster presentations, all presenters were limited to one presentation and all delegates were active researchers, the number of delegates was capped, and several student bursaries were awarded to early career researchers. This all made for a jam-packed programme of high quality presentations on a really broad selection of topics and methodologies within the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities research, attended by just over 80 delegates.

We cannot focus on all the presentations (because there just isn’t space here to do so) but we have pulled out a few topics and issues that were raised throughout the conference. You can also catch up on some of the coverage online by searching for #SeattleClub2017 on twitter or visit our account @DurhamDevDis.

The keynote address was presented by Dr Jacqui Rodgers from Newcastle University on the topic of ‘intolerance of uncertainty’ as a core cognitive mechanism for anxiety in Autism. Jacqui emphasised the high prevalence of anxiety disorder within Autism and the significant impact that this can have on the individual as well as their wider family unit, and across the lifespan. The presentation of anxiety might be atypical in individuals who have Autism and this is important for the development of relevant theories and also intervention design – Jacqui focused on both these areas within the keynote address. Recent research by Jacqui and her colleagues has emphasised the central role of an intolerance of uncertainty in anxiety manifestations in autism and her group have fed this into the recent design and delivery of new interventions for both children and adults who have Autism. Further information on Jacqui’s intervention work on anxiety in Autism can be found on the Autistica website for her newly funded project starting in January 2018:

The varied range of methods (quantitative and qualitative) being used in projects on intellectual disabilities (ID) was immense, and furthermore the topics ranged from very applied and clinical interventions to more theoretical interpretations of cognition, education, and mental health challenges. It was clear that bringing together clinicians, practitioners and academics continues to be highly valuable and this communication is essential to furthering the field of ID research and practice (taking the effects directly to people with ID and their families). This varied approach to ID is important in this conference series as it means that delegates have the opportunity to obtain such different viewpoints on similar issues and see core themes across talks – the single session of talks within Seattle Club meetings is crucial here, even if it might occasionally take delegates outside their comfort zone.

During the conference members of the Centre presented a range of projects. For example, oral presentations were given by Dr Debbie Riby (Centre Director) on anxiety in Williams syndrome, pulling together evidence across two recent projects, and also by Emily Grew (PhD Student) who discussed her recent work on the role of attention in academic achievement for pupils with Autism. Emily emphasised the contribution of divided attention and how attention skills might play different roles in reading and maths achievement. A selection of posters was also presented from the Centre including research by Emine Gurbuz on the social and educational challenges for University students with Autism, by Marie Alkan on the development of memory episodic measures for use with participants with intellectual disabilities, and by Ellen Ridley on parental insights into educational provision and challenges pupils with Williams Syndrome.

We thank all the delegates who contributed to the success of the 17th Seattle Club conference and we hope each and every one of you enjoyed your time in Durham. The conference would not have been possible without the dedication of the postgraduate team who diligently and enthusiastically supported Debbie and Mary during preparations and during the actual conference. As we grow the Centre for Developmental Disorders and embark on more opportunities to run workshop series (e.g. for teachers, parents, researchers), engage with our academic and non-academic partners, and disseminate our own research this opportunity to host the Seattle Club conference was particularly timely….. our next event is our 2018 annual public lecture….

For further information on the annual Seattle Club conferences please visit:

For the mailing list for ID research please visit: