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Dr Catherine Purcell

Dr Catherine Purcell

Senior Lecturer: Occupational Therapy

School of Healthcare Sciences

+44 (0)29 225 10961
Room 3.18b, 3rd Floor, Ty Dewi Sant, Heath Park Campus, Cardiff, CF14 4XN
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision

I am senior lecturer in Occupational Therapy with a background in psychology. I specialise in research that explores the link between perception and action in natural contexts, such as driving and road crossing. I have a particular interest in perceptual motor coupling in children and adults with developmental disorders (including Developmental Coordination Disorder, Developmental Language Disorder, Dyslexia, ADHD and ASD) and have been conducting research in this field for the past 10 years.

Currently, I am conducting a study funded by the Rees Jeffrey’s Road Fund exploring whether children with DCD (sometimes referred to as Dyspraxia) benefit from an educational road safety game, that children play using iPads, in the same way as their typically developing peers.

I obtained my BSc (Hons) in Psychology in 2007 followed by my MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience and Research Methods in 2008 from the University of Durham. I then completed my PhD in 2012 at Royal Holloway, University of London on perceptual errors in predicting vehicle approach in typical and atypical populations.

I moved to Wales in 2012 to join the Dyscovery Centre as a Research Fellow, this enabled me to conduct research in a clinical setting alongside Occupational Therapists and other Allied Health Professionals.

I became a Senior Lecturer at the University of South Wales in 2015 and led several programmes within the psychology department, before moving to Cardiff University in August 2018 to join the Healthcare Sciences, Occupational Therapy team.

Professional memberships

  • Chartered Psychologist, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

My current active grants and supervisory roles fall under two broad categories:

Developmental Disorders

  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Rees Jeffrey’s Road Fund to evaluate the efficacy of a augmented reality road safety educational game for children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
  • I am supervising a PhD student who is exploring the needs of service users with a co-existing mental health and neurodevelopmental disorder accessing Mental Health Services in Cwm Taf University Health Board


  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Road Safety Trust to create and test an augmented reality game-based road safety education game in Welsh primary schools.
  • I am supervising a PhD student who is exploring the effect of receiving access arrangements in university exams on students with specific learning difficulties.
  • I’m supervising a PhD student who is looking at the use of personality assessment for personal and professional development planning of teachers and support staff

Previous research grants

  • 2017 – 2018: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the National Lottery to co-create authentic resources with parents/carers of children with neurodiverse profiles, for parents/carers of children with neurodiverse profiles.
  • 2014 – 2015: Consultant to Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD). To advise the WISERD Education team on the most effective ways of gathering data on issues to do with roads, neighbourhood safety and journeys to school and develop the appropriate research instruments
  • 2014 – 2015: Principle investigator on a grant awarded by the Richard Benjamin Trust to co-create four guides to success through the facilitation of focus groups with neurodiverse adults and a top tips and tricks booklet with children with neurodiverse profiles
  • 2014: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by BBC Cymru Children in Need to facilitate four themed summer activity days for local children with Developmental Disorders
  • 2014 – 2015: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Newport Community Endowment Fund to deliver a series of five practical evening workshops for parents of mainstream children with a developmental disorder who live in Newport
  • 2013 – 2016: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by The Waterloo Foundation to measure the developmental readiness of 6-13 year old children with and without developmental disorders to acquire new knowledge and skills through different methods of teaching road safety.
  • 2013 – 2014: Co-Investigator on a grant awarded by the University of South Wales, exploring falls in adults with significant motor difficulties: Quantifying the incidence, severity and cost to the individual.
  • Co-Investigator on an ESRC funded follow-on project. Developed freely downloadable highly realistic demonstrations to enhancedriver awareness of perceptual errors in approach speed judgments for road crossing and decisions at junctions

I’m interested in research relating to neurodevelopmental disorders (for example: Dyspraxia / Developmental Coordination Disorder; Developmental Language Disorder; Auttism Spectrum Conditions; Dyslexia) and independent safe mobility in a variety of contexts, such as road crossing and driving.

I am interested in supervising students in the areas of:

  • Methodologies such as virtual / augmented reality and experimental studies
  • Perception & action and the impact on occupation and / or function
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders and understanding the impact of living with hidden disabilities