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A biopsychosocial approach to understanding the transition from childhood to adolescence and mental health in girls with neurodevelopmental disorders

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Sinead Rhodes
    Dr J Maybin
    Dr S Chan
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The newly established four-year Medical Sciences & Translational Research PhD with integrated studies in Engagement for Impact Programme will combine medical science and translational research projects with integrated and credited teaching in science communication, public engagement, patient involvement, data design and informatics, via established MSc courses and/or new Engagement for Impact courses. Our vision is to teach a generation of researchers equipped to address and solve real-world problems through excellent science and who have the engagement and impact skills we believe will give them an edge in their future careers.
https://www.ed.ac.uk/inflammation-research/postgraduate-training/phd-programme

This potential PhD project, selectable by successful applicants to this Programme, is supervised by Dr Sinead Rhodes (https://www.ed.ac.uk/profile/dr-sinead-rhodes) at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences / Child Life and Health, with co-supervisors Dr Jackie Maybin and Dr Stella Chan.

Project Summary:
Young girls with neurodevelopmental disorders such as dyspraxia, ADHD and autism have a much higher vulnerability to developing mental health difficulties in particular depression and anxiety than their peers (c. 50% vs. 12%). An earlier onset of mental health difficulties is also observed in this population; earlier onset often predicts more severe illness trajectories across the life span. A recent James Lind Alliance research priority setting exercise1 conducted by the first supervisor with these young people, their families and practitioners, identified adaptation at times of transitions in these children’s lives as a core research priority area. In this project we will take a multidisciplinary approach to identify the biological (e.g. puberty, menstruation), psychological (e.g. sensory processing, intolerance of uncertainty, cognitive functions) and social (e.g. transition from primary to high-school) factors that put these young people at heightened risk of developing mental health difficulties as they transition from childhood to adolescence. Young people with these neurodevelopmental disorders, who share many cognitive, psychological and social features in common, will be assessed longitudinally on three occasions from the end of primary (p7) to end of year 1 in high-school (S1) from around age 11-12/13 years. Co-production methods with affected young people will be used to determine design, measures and the nature of outputs to ensure appropriateness and sensitivity and facilitating shared ownership between researchers, the participant group and relevant stakeholders.

References:
Steward et al. (2018). Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48, 4287 – 4292.

Magnuson and Constantino (2011). Journal of Development and Behavioural Paediatrics, 32, 4, 332-340.

1Lim, A.K., Rhodes, S.M., Cowan, K, & O’Hare, A. (2019). BMJ Open 2019; 9:e028780. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-028780

Engagement for Impact:

The project examines sensitive topics that are of significant health concern for young girls with neurodevelopmental disorders as identified by these young people, their families and relevant stakeholders1. Young people, their parents and practitioners will be involved in co-producing the specific research design and measures to ensure appropriateness and sensitivity of methods. These methods also facilitate shared involvement and ownership of the research between the academic, participant group and relevant stakeholders. Co-production methods are known to be important in empowerment of the participant group which is ultimately vital in ensuring findings are adopted in practice. A key goal of the project, beyond furthering understanding of the factors underlying mental health difficulties in these young people, is the production of resources linked to that knowledge. Here we will work with affected young people themselves and their parents and teachers in facilitating the development of strategies and resources directly focused on mental health. Strategies/resources will also focus on difficulties around the transition to adolescence including puberty, menstruation and moving from primary to high-school, associated with poor mental health outcomes in these young people. Possibilities include development of a targeted online chatroom and infographics suitable for the school environment. The supervision team have a strong track record in the development of public engagement outputs relevant to these sensitive topics and will facilitate the PhD student to develop these outcomes.

1This proposal directly addresses question 10 identified and prioritised in the James Lind Alliance research priority exercise conducted with affected individuals, their families and health and education practitioners: “Which strategies are effective in helping children and young people with learning difficulties live independent lives, including during times of transitions?”
Lim, A.K., Rhodes, S.M., Cowan, K, & O’Hare, A. (2019). BMJ Open 2019; 9:e028780.

Funding Notes

This is one of the potential projects in the University of Edinburgh College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine’s new 4 year Medical Sciences & Translational Research PhD with integrated studies in Engagement for Impact Programme. Successful applicants will select their preferred PhD projects from the available options in discussion with proposed supervisors. Three studentships are available in the programme, providing full tuition fees (EU/UK rate only), stipend of at least £15,000 per year, £450 annual travel and conference allowance, dedicated engagement support grant of £1,500, and £5,000 annually towards research consumable costs.
Apply before 26th January 2020 at https://www.ed.ac.uk/inflammation-research/postgraduate-training/phd-programme



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