UCL Psychology and Language Sciences

Dr John Swettenham

Dr John Swettenham

Reader in Developmental Psychopathology

Language & Cognition

Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

Joined UCL
1st Jan 1999

Research summary

My research focuses on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and related neurodevelopmental conditions. I have been interested in whether joint attention skills could be a marker for identifying ASD at an earlier age; how pivotal joint attention is in the development of later occurring social communication skills; and whether perceptual and attentional impairments underlie a joint attention impairment. The latter area of research has also extended into a broader interest in perceptual and attentional atypicalities in ASD – including perception of biological motion and our new proposal that ASD is characterised by increased perceptual capacity (see the article in Scientific American).  Research with children with cerebral palsy, who also have severe motor impairment and limited speech, has been examining how joint attention and eye pointing are used for communication. Working in collaboration with colleagues at UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital our team has developed an assessment for functional gaze control; examined the role of attention in communication; developed a brief test for fuctional vision to be used in schools; and an eye pointing classification scale for clinical use.  Other research looks at social communication more generally, including work on bullying and theory of mind; the study of autism-like symptoms in children with visual impairment; and recent work with children who have ASD and are also deaf.


University of York
PhD, Psychology | 1991
University of York
BSc Hons, Psychology | 1986