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Fully Funded PhD Studentship - The Everyday Learning Opportunities of Young Children with Down Syndrome

Cardiff University - School of Psychology

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Cardiff
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: £18,662 p.a.
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 2nd February 2024
Closes: 1st March 2024

We are seeking a PhD candidate with a strong interest in one or more of the following areas: developmental science, visual/attentional/language/motor development, egocentric vision, and/or atypical development to jointly shape a research project focused on understanding the everyday learning opportunities in the first years of life.

Many families and professionals working with children worry that attentional and motor difficulties limit the learning opportunities of young children. These difficulties are common and pervasive in early development across a range of neurodevelopmental conditions. They are in fact often the first indicator that development is going awry. Yet, commonly used static screen-based methods and standardised tests limit our understanding of how attentional and motor difficulties (a) constrain the everyday experiences of young children, (b) impede children’s learning opportunities moment-by-moment, and (c) steer developmental trajectories early in life when the trajectories are most malleable.

Only recently have developmental scientists considered the child’s active experiences by using head-mounted cameras, challenging fundamental assumptions about learning and development. Using this technology, typically developing children were found to create distinct kinds of experiences at different ages – with a visual shift from faces to hands and objects across the first few years of life. Attentional and motor development has been proposed to play a crucial role in gating access to these different kinds of experiences and guide learning. If attentional and motor abilities play a key role in constructing optimal learning opportunities, then what happens to these learning opportunities if the child has attentional and motor difficulties?

To study this question, the PhD candidate will join the Cardiff Babylab team on a longitudinal study of the first two years of life funded by the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship awarded to Dr Hana D’Souza. Building on advances in head-mounted cameras, the aim of this large-scale project is to integrate cutting-edge technology and current developmental frameworks to understand the first-person experiences of young children with Down syndrome, who often show attentional and motor difficulties early in life.

Jointly with the supervisors, the PhD candidate will have the opportunity to shape the specific focus of their PhD project and contribute to the design of the longitudinal study.

For any queries about this studentship, please contact the supervisor by email - Dr Hana D’Souza (dsouzah@cardiff.ac.uk).

Funding Comment

Home students are UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements (students must have been in the UK for >3 years before start of course).

Funding Comment

The studentship commences in October 2024, covers 3 years tuition fees and maintenance, with submission deadline of 4 years. The 2023/4 full-time maintenance grant was £18,662 p.a. Psychology students receive conference and participant money (~£2,250), computer, office space, access to courses and become members of the Doctoral Academy.

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