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KESS2 Scholarship: Investigating the Efficacy of Interventions Targeting Functional Speech for Minimally Verbal Learners with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, February 23, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

Project Description

This is a funded PhD, including a generous stipend and tuition fees, with well-resourced circumstances for a successful scholarship.

Here is an exciting opportunity exciting opportunity for a graduate in Psychology or Behaviour Analysis to undertake a programme of research which could lead to the development of entirely new intervention approaches in the area of autism and intellectual disabilities (ID).

Programme of research:

A significant proportion of individuals with autism and ID struggle to develop functional speech. Assistive technology is often utilised to help support individuals develop functional communication skills, and there is an emerging evidence base supporting its use with children with ID and autism. Research support is lacking, however, for interventions designed to increase or improve speech in this population. A number of approaches do exist; for example, interventions targeting oral motor movements via tactile cueing (e.g., Prompts for Restructuring Oral Musculature Phonetic Targets and TalkTools), as well as imitation-based interventions. Unfortunately, there is a lack of high-quality research evidence supported by Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) supporting the use of these strategies. Moreover, the extant literature on available interventions has not been well synthesised or appraised to date.

This is an important gap in the literature; communication skills can empower learners to express themselves, reduce frustrations and build relationships. The proposed programme of study will provide critical information regarding the relative efficacy of interventions designed to increase functional speech in individuals with ID and autism. The programme of research will involve a number of key aims. We will undertake a systematic appraisal of the literature addition on interventions designed to increase functional vocal repertoires in individuals with ID and autism. We will also undertake an analysis of the extent to which these findings align with current clinical practises. Our aim is use this information to plan and undertake a feasibility randomised trial of an emerging intervention designed to increase functional speech.

Application Process:

To download an application package, please visit: specific funded studentships:

For any queries on eligibility, please contact: KESS Team at Research and Innovation Services, University of South Wales: Tel: 01443 482578

For informal enquiries or further programme information, please contact: Dr Richard May ( )

Further information at:

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover the fees for a full-time PhD programme and pay a stipend of circa £14.5k p.a. There is also around £9k project support costs available for consumables, travel, minor equipment, training (including the KESS Grad School) and conference attendance.
The position is available from 1st April 2020.
Closing date for applications: midnight Sunday 23rd February 2020

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