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Jess Hirst

Research Postgraduate

Research Postgraduate in the Department of Psychology



I completed my BSc (Hons) Psychology at the University of Liverpool in 2019. Following this I completed my MA Research Methods (Developmental Psychology) in 2020 at Durham University. My MA dissertation explored the impact of different sensory aspects of the classroom for both autistic and non-autistic children. 

After this I worked as a Research Assistant in the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development at Durham University, across two projects. The first of these projects, the Triple-A project, was an impact project which aimed to translate research into an online resource for educators, to increase awareness and understanding about the impact of attention, arousal (sensory processing) and anxiety in the classroom. The second project that I worked on explored anxiety and family well-being in Williams Syndrome, internationally, collecting data from families in 24 countries around the world. 

Research Area

I am conducting doctoral research within the Centre for Neurodiversity and Development. The aim of my research is to work towards a holistic model of academic achievement and engagement for autistic pupils. The research aims to work with key stakeholders in the autism community, such as autistic people, parents of autistic children, teachers and educational psychologists, to develop and test a model of important factors for engagement in the classroom. 

The projected is funded by a NineDTP studentship award. In my research I will be working closely with the Communication and Interaction Team at Durham County Council (DCC), and they are a collaborative partner on my PhD. 

Research interests

  • Engagement in school
  • Autism
  • Education
  • Neurodiversity
  • Sensory differences
  • Academic achievement
  • Williams Syndrome