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USW Academics

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Ruth is Professor of Learning Disability Nursing, Head of Research for the Faculty of Life Sciences and Education, and has led UDIDD since its inception in 2002. 

Ruth teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate nursing and supervises postgraduate research students. She welcomes applications for PhD or Masters by Research study in one of her areas of expertise.

Her interests include the health and well-being of people with learning disabilities, safeguarding, the use of inclusive research approaches, ethics and professional issues in learning disability nursing. She has researched and published in each of these areas.

Professor Northway was awarded an OBE in 2016 for services to Learning Disability Nursing, followed by Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2018 from both and the Nursing Times and RCN Wales. 

Ruth Northway holds numerous positions related to her field. These include membership of the UK Steering Group for Strengthening the Commitment; co-chair of the Welsh Government Learning Disability Advisory Group and co-chair of the Ethics Special Interest Research Group for the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

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Stuart Todd is a Professor in Intellectual Disability research at the University of South Wales. His research has been based on Welsh, UK and European collaborations. 

His research interests span across the lives and experiences of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, including care at end of life.

He has explored family/carers’ perspectives on caregiving across the life span.  His most recent work focusses on the relationship between death, dying and intellectual disabilities, and delivering health and social care in the context of a pandemic.

As well as research, Dr Todd has and still contributes to nurse education teaching and supervision at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.  He welcomes applications for PhD or Masters by Research study in one of his areas of expertise.

Prof Todd's Recent & Current Grants 

  • 2021 Linden, M., Brown, M., Marsh, L., Truesdale, M., Hughes, Todd. S. Impact of COVID-19 on family carers for profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD): Development of a support programme. (250k)  (UKRI)
  • 2021 Todd, S., Bernal, J., Shearn, J., Jones, E., Hunt, K. et al Last Days of Life in the Context of COVID  (38K)  Baily Thomas Trust 
  • 2020  Hatton, C., Hastings, R., Bailey, T., Bradshaw, J., Caton, S., Flynn, S., Gillooly, A., Jahoda, A., Maguire, R., Marriott, A., Mulhall, P., Oloidi, E., Taggart, L., Todd, S., Abbott, D., Beyer, S., Gore, N., Heslop, P., Scior, K., Coronovirus and learning disability: a UK study if the lives of people with learning disabilities through the pandemic (£770K) MRC /URKI

Dr Carmel Conn

Carmel is an Associate Professor, Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for the MA SEN/ALN (Autism) at USW. She has over twenty years' teaching experience, working with a range of learning needs in specialist and mainstream school settings across the age range. 

Her research interests include practices in inclusive education in relation to disabled children, focusing particularly on autism and the ways in which autistic children and young people engage with learning. 

She has extensive experience of conducting large and small-scale primary research in schools including research exploring how additional learning needs are being considered within the development of the new curriculum for Wales.  

Carmel welcomes applications for PhD or Masters by Research study in one of her areas of expertise which include inclusive education; autism, particularly in relation to education and support for children, young people and adults; participatory research with children

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Steve Walden is a registered learning disabilities nurse with bachelors degrees in both human biology and learning disabilities nursing. 

He also has masters degrees in medical genetics, film production, and forensic anthropology, and a PhD in forensic anthropology. Recently, Steve completed his second PhD in psychodynamic film theory (Dracula on Film: A Psychohistoricist Study, 2021) at the Brunel University. 

His teaching and supervision experience include both undergraduate and postgraduate learning disability nursing courses at the University of South Wales. 

His research interests includes amongst others the social history of people with learning disabilities.

Dr Walden’s Grant applications in Progress and/or Development;

  • ‘Biography of the Bone’ – USW/Cranfield University/Northumbria University
  • ‘Wellcome Collection – Access to Knowledge for People with learning Disabilities’ – Liverpool Hope/USW/OU/Wellcome Collection, London

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Michelle Culwick is a senior lecturer and Subject Lead on the BSc (Hons) Social Work degree. Post-qualification as a social worker in 1997, she worked within the sector in the UK and the USA. 

Michelle has completed her PhD which explored the experiences of social workers working with abused disabled children. 

Her areas of specialism and interest include; the safeguarding of disabled children, social work research and inter-professional practice. 

She has current registration with Social Care Wales and teaches social work research, social work assessment and safeguarding. 

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Dr Richard May is a Senior Lecturer and Course Lead on the Behaviour Analysis courses. He has worked in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in academic and clinical settings since 2003 both in the UK and in Canada. 

Richard teaches on undergraduate and masters courses within the School of Psychology and Therapeutic Studies. He also supervises a number of clinical placement and doctoral students.

His research interests include; Argumentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) interventions, language, symbolic learning, and errorless teaching approaches.

He is involved in a number of collaborative research projects, and is a member of the Sharland Foundation Developmental Research Impact Network.

Ongoing projects include: Investigating the use of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS); An evaluation of interventions targeting functional speech.

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Colin Macpherson is a registered learning disability nurse with a BSc degree in community health, a specialist practitioner qualification, and postgraduate certificate in higher education. 

His research interest and expertise lies in people with learning disabilities who display behaviours that challenge. 

His professional experience includes the development and management of a Challenging Behaviour Unit and he contributed to National Education Scotland’s Learning materials in Positive Behavioural Support PBS for adults and children (Children and Mental Health). 

He currently leads masters modules in safeguarding and advocacy.

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Dr Beth Pickard is a Researcher and Senior Lecturer in Therapeutic Studies at USW. 

Beth’s research interests include the social construction of disability and the potential of both the arts and Higher Education to contribute to, perpetuate, or challenge societal understandings of disability. 

Beth's PhD researched non-normative pedagogy and consciousness raising. 

Beth was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2018 for her contribution to disability studies and Higher Education. 

Rachel Morgan, UDIDD

Rachel is the Head of Pre-registration (Nursing and Midwifery), with experience in undergraduate and post-graduate nurse education. 

Her clinical experience spans more than a decade, across both learning disability services and older adult mental health services. Accordingly, her interests are dementia, end of life care and reducing health inequalities for people with learning disabilities. 

She was recently part of a team at USW that developed the Learning Disabilities Education Framework for for Healthcare Staff in Wales and has contributed to various publications.   

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Dr Stacey Rees is a registered community learning disability nurse and a lecturer, module lead/manager at the University of South Wales. She has been involved in cross-field teaching and assessment at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

Stacey recently completed her PhD at USW. Her research interests include adverse childhood experiences, determinants of health, health inequalities, community nursing and health promotion. 

She coordinates the Teaching and Research Advisory Committee meetings at USW and implements the learning disability champion model across health and social care. 

She has published, and presented at international conferences. She is currently working with colleagues to develop a pan Wales Learning Disability Communication Tool.   


Dr Edward Oloidi is a research assistant at USW, with frontline experience of supporting adults with learning disability. 

His PhD thesis explored how perceived public perceptions regarding personal and sexual relationships of adults with intellectual disabilities might influence social care workers’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours (Wales). 

Accordingly, his interests are sexuality and sexual health amongst adults with learning disability. Ed is currently working with colleagues at USW on various projects: 

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Dr Wahida Kent is a Registered Social Worker and have worked with children and their families (in Wales) for 25+ years. Her practice experience has focused mainly on supporting Black and Minority Ethnic children and their families. She is currently a Social Work lecturer at the University of South Wales. Her PhD (a mixed methods study) which explored “Who supports the families of black and minority ethnic children with life-limiting conditions?” is the only academic research where the voice of Black and Minority Ethnic parent carers of life-limited children is included. She speak several South Asian Languages and she is literate in Urdu. Wahida is passionate about research and evidence-based practice, and her research interests include: children, disability, carers, learning disability, life-limiting conditions, anti-discriminatory and and anti-oppressive practice.

Prof Amanda Kirby

Professor Amanda Kirby is a qualified GP and held a chair in developmental disorders at the University of South Wales. Amanda founded The Dyscovery Centre in 1997, a specialist centre for children and adults with developmental disorders. She has a close personal interest in neurodiversity as many close family members are wonderful and talented neurodiverse people. 

Professor Kirby has delivered extensive training relating to mental health and neurodiversity to more than 100,000 people nationally and internationally and to large scale organisations and SMEs. She is a trustee of the ADHD Foundation, patron of the Dyspraxia Association in New Zealand, and Medical Advisor to the Dyspraxia Foundation in the UK. She has published extensively in the field of Developmental Disorders/Neurodiversity and has eight books including two practical books on 'How to succeed'-one for Further and Higher Education one for employment for neurodiverse people  including those with Dyslexia, DCD (Dyspraxia), ADHD,and ASD to help at home, in education or in work.

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Dr Victoria Markham teaches on several therapeutics-based modules on the Childhood Development course. She has worked in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities in both academic and clinical settings since 2013. Her research and clinical interests are primarily focused on skill acquisition programmes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For example, developing individualised teaching strategies and evaluating learner preference for those strategies.

Her PhD research focussed on designing errorless teach methods for teaching receptive language skill to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has also conducted school-based research on computer-based reading interventions and has recently collaborated with an Educational Psychology service evaluating computer-based reading interventions for learners with special educational needs.  


Dawn Cavanagh's PhD, in collaboration with Royal Mencap Society, explored learning disabled people’s experience of the annual health check. The study addressed questions such as how the issues identified at the health check are followed up and addressed,  how individuals with learning disability self-managed identified health conditions and the support they receive in relation to their health.

Dawn's research interests include health, loss, change, dying, death and bereavement particularly in relation to people with learning disabilities. She has presented at international conferences and, recently completed with colleagues at Mencap a review of policies and procedures relating to the relationships and sexuality of people with a learning disability residing in supported living provision across Wales.

Recently, Dawn was part of the team of interviewers that spoke to adults with learning disabilities in Wales during the hugely successful UK-wide Coronavirus and People with Learning Disability Study.

Visiting Profs / Fellows

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Catherine Bright is a visiting Professor at USW. She has held the position of Consultant Psychiatrist in Learning Disability in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board since 2004. 

She has a PhD in Physiology (University of Edinburgh) she also holds an LLM in Legal Aspects of Medical Practice. She has been Clinical Director in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board since 2014. 

Her academic interests include access to healthcare, patient quality and safety, mental capacity, consent and human rights, death and dying.

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Dr Kathy Lowe was senior lecturer and researcher at the University of Wales (1980-2002) and Special Projects Team member at ABM University Health Board (2002 to 2019).

She co-developed the Active Support Model, post-graduate/MSc courses, and three e-learning PBS qualifications at BTEC Levels 3, 4 and 5. 

She is Visiting Professor (University of South Wales), visiting lecturer (International University of Catalonia), member of several local and national groups and international journal editorial boards.  

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Professor Edwin Jones is the the strategic lead for PBS at BILD. Until recently, he was the Service Improvement and Research Lead, in Mental Health and Learning Disabilities, Swansea Bay Health Board, UK. 

He is involved in service improvement, training and policy development focussing on Positive Behavioural Support. Edwin is a Visiting Professor (University of South Wales), visiting lecturer (International University of Catalonia), external examiner (University of Glasgow), special advisor (British Institute of Learning Disabilities), Vice chair UK APBS Alliance, and member of the Welsh Government Learning Disability Ministerial Advisory Group, Restraint Reduction Network and PBS academy.

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Jane is a Visiting Professor at the University of South Wales. Her background is in the Psychiatry of Learning Disabilities. 

Until 2011, she was the Medical Editor of intellectualdisability.info. Jane was a Senior Lecturer at St George’s University in London, has taught both at undergraduate and post-graduate levels, and developed multidisciplinary teaching.

Her research interest is in death and dying as it affects the lives of people with learning disabilities. She also have a long standing interest in ethics and communication, including how and whether people are told they may be dying. 

Dr Nicky Genders

Until recently, Nicky was Head of the School of Care Sciences at the University of South Wales. Post qualification as a learning disability nurse, she worked in different roles in community based services for children with learning disabilities until becoming a clinical nurse tutor.

In over 30 years in higher education, Nicky has held a number of leadership roles including Associate Head of School in 2014. She is passionate about high quality health and social care professional education.

Her research interest includes; parenting by people with learning disabilities, learning disability nurses identity and leadership.

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Katja Valkama works as research and development manager and principal lecturer at the School of Health Care and Social Work, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, Finland. She is doctor of administrative sciences, master of social sciences and has a degree in youth work. Her PhD studied the role of the citizen in Finnish social and health care with special focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalised people. 

Katja specialises in social services, welfare systems, administration, deliberative democracy, participation and citizenship. Her expertise is in autism spectrum disorders, especially how to support people with ASD in everyday life. 

Her academic experience includes teaching, lecturing and researching. She has led and participated in different studies with particular focus on marginalised groups in society. 

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Dr Argyriadis is an Assistant Professor at Frederick University in the fields of Special Education and Health. He has held the position of Lecturer in various Universities (Hellenic Open University, University of Thessaly, University of Peloponnese, Cyprus University of Technology amongst others). 

He is a Visiting Fellow (University of South Wales), a reviewer for various scientific journals and has authored many scientific articles and books. 

His work includes contributions to conferences, research programs, public and business activities in education. Alexandros teaches as an invited professor at universities abroad and designs modern interdisciplinary actions. 

His research interests include; cultural anthropology, diversity and inclusion, learning disability nursing and disability studies. 

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Paula is a Consultant Nurse and has spent most of her career working with those whose behaviour is described as challenging. 

Paula is passionate about functional analysis, seeking to understand behaviour as a message and utilising value-based approaches to make improvements to quality of life for the individual and those around them. 

Her interests are in nurse education, professional development, joint-working with people with learning disabilities, death and dying particularly in relation to the inclusion of people with learning disabilities at end of life decision making.

More about Paula Hopes


Dr Lance Watkins is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Epilepsy Pathway Lead with the Epilepsy Specialist Service, Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Service Group, Swansea Bay University Health Board. A Tertiary epilepsy service for people with intellectual disabilities and complex epilepsy. He is the current Vice Chair (2017-2022) Faculty of Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability, Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales. He is also the clinical Lead for Learning Disability Research, National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH), Cardiff.

Dr Watkins has varied research interests in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. His current projects include primary care liaison with learning disability services and the annual health check, pharmacological burden in older adults with intellectual disability, smart phone applications for autistic people, and bone health. He also has specific interest in epilepsy in association with neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Lance is currently working on Joint NIHR project between NCMH and Plymouth University to develop a prospective epilepsy register for people with intellectual disability including biological profiles. He is a member of the author group for the Cochrane Epilepsy Review Team updating the reviews for pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions for people with epilepsy and Intellectual Disability.