Durham University



Miss Ellen Ridley, BSc, MA

Research Postgraduate in the Department of Psychology
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 42430
Room number: RH015

Contact Miss Ellen Ridley


I completed my BSc (Hons) Psychology at Newcastle University in 2015. My dissertation investigated anxiety, intolerance of uncertainty and autistic traits, in neurotypical individuals.

I worked as a Research Assistant on two grant-funded projects (from Nuffield Foundation and Baily Thomas Charitable Fund) on aspects of typical and atypical child development. In 2016 I worked on a project exploring music perception in Williams syndrome at Durham University (I later returned to this project to carry out the TD control recruitment and testing at Goldsmiths University of London). In 2017 I worked on a randomised-controlled trial at Sheffield University, testing the effectiveness of an executive function training intervention for improving cognitive and academic skills in disadvantaged pre-schoolers.

I completed my MA Research Methods (Developmental Psychology) at Durham University in 2018. My MA thesis explored social behaviours and social interactions in children with additional developmental needs (looking across Autism, Williams syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and ADHD) and devised a new parental measure to capture social behaviours more sensitively (in collaboration with Professor Sue Leekam, Cardiff University).  

I enjoy being a part of exciting and worthwhile projects that seek to support vulnerable groups in society. In 2015 I worked as an mental health volunteer in the Sri Lankan community. Since 2018 I have been volunteering with the Edinburgh-based charity SuperTroop.

Research Area

I am currently conducting doctoral research within the Centre for Developmental Disorders. The aim of my PhD is to explore pathways to social vulnerability in individuals with developmental disabilities. The neurodevelopmental disorders Autism and Williams syndrome will be the primary focus of the PhD as they are each characterised by significant social challenges, heightened anxiety and the presence of learning disability. Using a mixed-methods approach (immersive virtual reality / eye-tracking / focus groups / standardised measures / parental interviews etc.) the project aims to understand the nature of social vulnerability in these developmental populations, by studying the mechanism underlying social behaviours and how these interact with heightened anxiety and learning disabilities. This cross-syndrome approach will allow me to explore whether the pathway to social vulnerability is the same / different in these groups. This will allow me to think about routes to potential vulnerability in other developmental populations and in terms of learning disability more generally. Understanding social vulnerability is not only really important for supporting individuals with WS/ASD but also for designing evidence-based interventions for individuals with developmental disorders / learning disability. Therefore, the overall goal will be to produce a new model of social vulnerability that can feed into future interventions to enhance the lives of individuals with these disorders.

The project is funded by a Baily Thomas Charitable Fund Doctoral Fellowship and supported by the non-academic collaborative partner the Williams syndrome Foundation (WSF).

List of publications

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