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Embodied learning: How motor difficulties constrain learning during parent-child interaction in infants/toddlers with Down syndrome and Williams syndrome

School of Psychology and Sport Science

About the Project

Proposed supervisory team
Dr Dean D’Souza ()- (Anglia Ruskin University), Dr Hana D’Souza - (Cambridge University), Dr John Lambie ()- (Anglia Ruskin University)

Theme: Child Development -

Summary of the research project

Action is at the core of early cognitive development. Even young infants actively select aspects of their environment to focus on by moving their eyes and reaching towards people and objects. How is this active embodied learning affected if children have motor difficulties, which are often present early in development across a range of neurodevelopmental disorders? This project aims to investigate how motor behaviours (e.g., handling objects) in infants/toddlers with Down syndrome and Williams syndrome and their parents relate to language development in these young children. The project will be focused on collecting data from these groups using head-mounted eye-tracking, as well as coding and analysing an already existing data-set from a large project on individual differences in infants/toddlers with Down syndrome (the London Down Syndrome Consortium LonDownS -

The research is a joint venture between researchers at Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Cambridge. Testing will take place at the University of Cambridge.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge -


This project is self-funded.

Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available:

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.


D’Souza, D., D’Souza, H. and Karmiloff-Smith, A., 2017. Precursors to language development in typically and atypically developing infants and toddlers: The importance of embracing complexity. Journal of Child Language, 44(3), pp.591-627.
Yu, C. and Smith, L.B., 2012. Embodied attention and word learning by toddlers. Cognition, 125(2), pp.244-262.
Yu, C. and Smith, L.B., 2013. Joint attention without gaze following: Human infants and their parents coordinate visual attention to objects through eye-hand coordination. PLoS ONE, 8(11), e79659.
Samuelson, L.K. and McMurray, B., 2017. What does it take to learn a word?. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 8(1-2), e1421.
de Campos, A.C., da Costa, C.S.N., Savelsbergh, G.J. and Rocha, N.A.C.F., 2013. Infants with Down syndrome and their interactions with objects: Development of exploratory actions after reaching onset. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(6), pp.1906-1916.

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