Rebecca Ward

Nationality: British

Research Supervisor: Dr Eirini Sanoudaki and Professor Enlli Thomas

Conferences

Ward, R. & Sanoudaki, E. 2017. Bilingualism in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Wales: An Investigation of Advice Received and Family Practices. Poster presented at: 11th International Symposium of Bilingualism; June 11-15th 2017; Limerick, Ireland.

Ward, R. & Sanoudaki, E. 2017. Bilingualism and Down syndrome: Evaluating the developmental trajectory of language and phonological awareness. Oral presentation at the Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group: Annual Winter Meeting; November 3rd, 2017, London, UK.

Previous Qualifications

MA: Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University: Merit
BSc Psychology (Hons), Swansea University: First Class Honours

Details of any teaching at Bangor University

Introduction to Language – First Year module in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, where I took some of the seminar sessions during the first term of the 2016-2017 academic year.

Information about your academic department

The Department of Linguistics and English Language is a small but friendly department with a wide range of expertise! The school has a PhD office within the department which is very helpful if you like to have a designated workspace. There are also regular seminars that allow you to see what other researchers are working on currently as well as opportunities to present your own work to others in the department and get feedback on it.

Title of your research and a short abstract

The tile of the research is Bilingual Language Development in Down syndrome. Research in the field of language development within children with Down syndrome has primarily focused on language development of children in one language only, however, there are a considerable number of bilingual speakers across the world, so my research aims to fill this gap in our knowledge. One area of weakness in children with Down syndrome is something called Phonological awareness, which is the ability to identify and manipulate speech sounds. In typically developing bilinguals, however, this is a skill which seems to be enhanced. As a result, the addition of a second language for children with Down syndrome may even assist with this underdeveloped area, which is also closely related to later reading and spelling development. As this field currently stands, there is very limited information available about bilingual language development in Down syndrome and so the research aims to enhance our understanding of this area and more specifically within the Welsh language context.

What skills have you gained from doing a PhD

So far, my skills in critical and independent thinking and evaluation have developed as I have progressed from my first year after undertaking a literature review. I have become more self-reliant and learnt to appreciate the importance of re-evaluating my own training needs, as well as developing my teaching skills by being given the opportunity to take seminars during my first year and attend relevant training opportunities. The skill that I have developed the most during my PhD so far is my ability to network with others and take on feedback both within and outside of academia and to engage with others clearly about my research.

How do you think your research could contribute to the community/external partners

The research has the potential to impact various aspects of the community, many families have expressed the lack of information about bilingualism for children with developmental disabilities. The project hopes to increase our knowledge of the area so that parents can be more informed of the possible outcomes of bilingualism for these children, as well as implications for clinical practice and education policy in Wales.

Why did you choose to study at Bangor University

I applied to Bangor for the specific project that I’m working on due to the expertise within the department and the fact that there are more Welsh speakers in this area of Wales. The beautiful scenery of the sea and the mountains is a bonus!

Do you have any advice for students considering a PhD at Bangor University

Make sure that you research your area of interest before applying for a PhD and start thinking about how you’re going to approach the field. Also, consider your reasons behind undertaking a PhD; make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons as it is a challenging but rewarding process!