The Science

I have loved science my whole life.  I passionately believe that science, well conducted, can change the world.  For me, it is a great privilege and delight to have a scientific career.  

I am a research fellow at the University of Queensland.  I am involved in research projects across three key interests:

  • Parenting including parenting intervention, parental adjustment, the transition to parenting, parent-infant sleep and postnatal care
  • Neurodevelopmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury and infants at risk of neurodevelopmental disability, including due to prematurity
  • Contextual behavioural science and contextual cognitive behavioural therapy including acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness and compassion

Many of the research projects that I’m involved in occur at the crossroads of these research interests.  The nexus of my research program is the application of contextual behavioural science, particularly acceptance and commitment therapy, to parenting and the parent-child relationship, and levering the parent-child relationship in order to optimise child development especially for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.  I love working in interdisciplinary research teams, reimagining complex issues from first principles, and discovering innovative clinical solutions. 

In my role at the University of Queensland, I supervise research higher degree students and I am involved as an investigator in diverse research projects within my areas of interest.  At present, there are two key projects that I take a lead role on. 

I am leading a research team that is developing an online parenting course grounded in acceptance and commitment therapy.  We have dubbed the application of acceptance and commitment therapy to parenting, parenting acceptance and commitment therapy or PACT (said as the word ‘PACT’ as ACT is said as the word ‘ACT’).  The particular course under development is called PARENT101 Parenting with Purpose and we are developing it using the edX platform.  This means that, once shown effective, PARENT101 could be released as a massive open online course or MOOC, making PARENT101 freely available to parents across the world.  We are initially piloting PARENT101 in a randomised controlled trial with families of children with cerebral palsy, but PARENT101 would ultimately be relevant to all parents.

Through my partnership with the not-for-profit organisation Possums  and Dr Pamela Douglas, I am leading the integration of acceptance and commitment therapy into the innovative and interdisciplinary new Possums approach to postnatal care and to the support of families of children with learning and developmental challenges early in life.  As a part of this work, I am the lead author of a radically different approach to parent-infant sleep.  Possums has a clinic in Brisbane offering face to face consultations and online outreach and also runs health professional training.  I am leading efforts to build science into these clinical and training activities, collecting real data on how families and health professionals experience the Possums approach, allowing us to build a solid evidence base and refine our innovative solutions. 

To date, I have over 40 publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.  This includes three completed randomised controlled trials of parenting intervention with families of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and two completed randomised controlled trials applying acceptance and commitment therapy to parenting.  I am the lead author of the first randomised controlled trial to test the additive benefits of acceptance and commitment therapy above and beyond established parenting intervention. In 2010, I obtained the Early Career Research Award at the International Helping Families Change Conference and in 2014, I received the Award for the best paper for effective intervention for people living with Cerebral Palsy at the Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.  You can view my Google Scholar profile here.

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