Research interests



Ellis, K., Lewington, P., Powis, L., Oliver, C., Waite, J., Heald, M., Apperly, I., Sandhu, P., & Crawford, H. (2020). Scaling of early social cognitive skills in typically developing infants and children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04449-9

Ellis, K., Oliver, C., Stefanidou, C., Apperly, I., & Moss, J. (2020). An observational study of social interaction skills and behaviors in Cornelia de Lange, fragile X and Rubinstein-Taybi syndromes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04440-4

Oliver, C., Royston, R., Crawford, H., Moss, J., Waite, J., Arron, K., Burbidge, C., Ellis, K., Nelson, L., Ross, E., Russell, H., & Welham, A. (2019). Informant assessments of behaviour and affect for people with intellectual disability. University of Birmingham

King, D., Ellis, K. R., Seri, S., Wood, A. G. (2019). A systematic review of cross-sectional differences and longitudinal changes to the morphometry of the brain following paediatric traumatic brain injury. Neuroimage clinical, 23, doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2019.101844

Background Gaze following difficulties are considered an early marker of autism, thought likely to cumulatively impact the development of social cognition, language and social skills. Subtle differences in gaze following abilities may contribute to the diverse range social and communicative autistic characteristics observed across people with genetic syndromes, such as Cornelia de Lange (CdLS) and fragile X (FXS) syndromes. Aims To compare profiles of 1) visual attention to the eye region at critical points of the attention direction process, 2) whether children follow the gaze cue to the object, and 3) participant looking time to the target object following the gaze cue between groups and conditions. Materials and Methods Children with CdLS (N=11) and FXS (N=8) and autistic (N=22) and neurotypical (N=22) children took part in a passive viewing paradigm adapted from Senju & Csibra (2008), in which videos of a central cue (ball/cartoon face/human face) directed attention towards one of two objects. Visual attention patterns were recorded via eye tracking technology. Results Neurotypical children were used as a reference group against which the autistic, CdLS and FXS groups were compared. Although autistic children looked at the eye region for significantly less time, they looked at the target object as frequently and for a similar duration as neurotypical children. Children with FXS looked at the target as frequently as neurotypical children but looked at it for comparatively less time. Both neurotypical children and children with CdLS frequently looked at the eye region, but children with CdLS were less likely to look at the target than neurotypical children. Conclusions Findings provide preliminary evidence of unique patterns of visual attention and gaze following strategies in children with CdLS, children with FXS and autistic children. These unique gaze following patterns may underpin the distinct profiles of social and communication autistic traits observed between these groups.

Katherine Ellis, Jo Moss, Chrysi Stefanidou, Chris Oliver, Ian Apperly (2021)The development of early social cognitive skills in neurogenetic syndromes associated with autism: Cornelia de Lange, fragile X and Rubinstein-Taybi syndromes, In: Orphanet journal of rare diseases16(1)488pp. 488-488

Cornelia de Lange (CdLS), Fragile X (FXS) and Rubinstein-Taybi syndromes (RTS) evidence unique profiles of autistic characteristics. To delineate these profiles further, the development of early social cognitive abilities in children with CdLS, FXS and RTS was compared to that observed in typically developing (TD) and autistic (AUT) children. Children with CdLS (N = 22), FXS (N = 19) and RTS (N = 18), completed the Early Social Cognition Scale (ESCogS). Extant data from AUT (N = 19) and TD (N = 86) children were used for comparison. Similar to AUT children, children with CdLS, FXS and RTS showed an overall delay in passing ESCogS tasks. Children with CdLS showed a similar degree of delay to AUT children and greater delay than children with FXS and RTS. The CdLS, FXS and RTS groups did not pass tasks in the same sequence observed in TD and AUT children. Children with CdLS (p = 0.04), FXS (p = 0.02) and RTS (p = 0.04) performed better on tasks requiring understanding simple intentions in others significantly more than tasks requiring joint attention skills. An underlying mechanism other than general cognitive delay may be disrupting early social cognitive development in children with CdLS, FXS and RTS. Factors that may disrupt early social cognitive development within these syndromes are discussed.

Katherine Ellis, Chris Oliver, Chrysi Stefanidou, Ian Apperly, Jo Moss (2020)An Observational Study of Social Interaction Skills and Behaviors in Cornelia de Lange, Fragile X and Rubinstein-Taybi Syndromes, In: Journal of autism and developmental disorders50(11)pp. 4001-4010 Springer Nature

We directly assessed the broader aspects of sociability (social enjoyment, social motivation, social interaction skills and social discomfort) in individuals with Cornelia de Lange (CdLS), fragile X (FXS) and Rubinstein-Taybi syndromes (RTS), and their association with autism characteristics and chronological age in these groups. Individuals with FXS (p < 0.01) and RTS (p < 0.01) showed poorer quality of eye contact compared to individuals with CdLS. Individuals with FXS showed less person and more object attention than individuals with CdLS (p < 0.01). Associations between sociability and autism characteristics and chronological age differed between groups, which may indicate divergence in the development and aetiology of different components of sociability across these groups. Findings indicate that individuals with CdLS, FXS and RTS show unique profiles of sociability.

Katherine Ellis, Philippa Lewington, Laurie Powis, Chris Oliver, Jane Waite, Mary Heald, Ian Apperly, Priya Sandhu, Hayley Crawford (2020)Scaling of Early Social Cognitive Skills in Typically Developing Infants and Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, In: Journal of autism and developmental disorders50(11)pp. 3988-4000

We delineate the sequence that typically developing infants pass tasks that assess different early social cognitive skills considered precursors to theory-of-mind abilities. We compared this normative sequence to performance on these tasks in a group of autistic (AUT) children. 86 infants were administered seven tasks assessing intention reading and shared intentionality (Study 1). Infants responses followed a consistent developmental sequence, forming a four-stage scale. These tasks were administered to 21 AUT children (Study 2), who passed tasks in the same sequence. However, performance on tasks that required following others' eye gaze and cooperating with others was delayed. Findings indicate that earlier-developing skills provide a foundation for later-developing skills, and difficulties in acquiring some early social cognitive skills in AUT children.

Victoria Perry, Katherine Ellis, Jo Moss, Sarah R. Beck, Gursharan Singla, Hayley Crawford, Jane Waite, Caroline Richards, Chris Oliver (2022)Executive function, repetitive behaviour and restricted interests in neurodevelopmental disorders, In: Research in Developmental Disabilities122104166 Elsevier

Background Individuals with genetic syndromes show unique profiles of repetitive behaviours and restricted interests (RRBs). The executive dysfunction account of RRBs suggests that in autistic (AUT) individuals executive function impairments underpin RRBs, but not communication and social interaction autistic characteristics. Aims To 1) describe profiles of behavioural manifestations of executive function (EF behaviours) and 2) explore the relationship between EF behaviours and autistic traits across individuals with Cornelia de Lange (CdLS), fragile X (FXS) and Rubinstein-Taybi syndromes (RTS), and AUT individuals. Method Carers completed the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function – Preschool Version and the Social Communication Questionnaire. Data reporting on 25 individuals with CdLS (Mage = 18.60, SD = 8.94), 25 with FXS (Mage = 18.48, SD = 8.80), 25 with RTS (Mage = 18.60, SD = 8.65) and 25 AUT individuals (Mage = 18.52, SD = 8.65) matched on chronological age and adaptive ability were included in analyses. Results All groups showed impairments across EF behaviours compared to two-to-three-year-old typically developing normative samples with no differences between groups. Different EF behaviours predicted RRBs in the syndrome groups with no associations found in the AUT group. Conclusions Syndrome related differences should be considered when developing targeted interventions that focus on EF behaviours and/or RRBs in these groups.