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Catherine Purcell   AFBPsS CPsychol

Dr Catherine Purcell AFBPsS CPsychol

Reader: Occupational Therapy

School of Healthcare Sciences

+44 29225 10961
Ty Dewi Sant, Room Room 3.18a, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN
Media commentator
Available for postgraduate supervision


As a psychologist my first programme of research focuses on neurodiversity, which includes neurodivergent children and adults including Developmental Coordination Disorder (also known as Dyspraxia in the UK), Developmental Language Disorder, Dyslexia, ADHD and ASD. My research, which spans 15 years, is particularly interested in the experience of being neurodivergent on everyday living, models of inclusive design and understanding access requirements to community opportunities, which links with my second programme of research which focuses on active travel.

Active travel can be described as making journeys in physically active ways, such as walking, wheeling, cycling or scootering. Active travel is increasingly recognised as a potentially effective means of increasing physical activity levels. Active travel contributes to physical and mental wellness, the reduction of carbon emissions and congestion, and increasing social interaction, creating greater cohesion in our communities. However, some children and families experience significant inequalities in opportunities for active travel, such as neurodivergent children and adults, who often experience greater environmental barriers meaning that they are less likely to benefit from the health and well-being benefits of travelling actively. 

I am currently leading a project with seven colleagues from across six universities in Wales exploring how children with and without disabilities are interacting with the outdoors, using a behaviour change framework. Our Wales Active TraveL ReseArch ConSortium (ATLAS) aims to explore the influence of active travel on health and well-being and how to ensure the benefits are accessible to all. We also evaluate the quality of green and blue spaces and the impact that travelling actively has on our natural and built environments. 

I hold positions on national and international neurodiversity committees, including for example, the Welsh Government Neurodiversity Clinical Advisory Group and I am the vice Chair of the International Society of Research and Advocacy for Developmental Coordination Disorder (ISRA-DCD). I have also been invited to join the mental health, participation and quality of life working group for the next revision of International Clinical Practice Recommendations for DCD.

In addition, I lead Research and Development for Occupational Therapy based in the School of Healthcare Sciences, and I am an Associate Lead for the Population Health Research Theme, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences (BLS), Cardiff University. I also sit on the steering group for the Occupational Therapy Research and Evidence Based Practice Network (ORiENT), which aims to support a Welsh occupational therapy research environment and enable occupational therapists to undertake audit, service evaluation and research to improve outcomes for the people of Wales.













Book sections


My current active grants and supervisory roles fall under my two programmes of research:


  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Waterloo Foundation, investigating neural correlates of developmental coordination disorder (DCD).
  • Co-Investigator on a grant investigating the impact of a specific educational needs and disabilities cycle instructor training programme developed by The Bikebility Trust.

Active Travel

  • 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.
  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by Welsh Crucible to explore how children and young people in Wales are interacting with their natural and built environments.
  • Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Wales Innovation Network to bring together a consortium of diverse expertise to develop a programme of research to support the modal shift towards active travel in Wales.

Examples of previous research grants

  • 2019 - 2023: Secured funding for a KESS 2 East PhD Studentship: Exploring therapy services across the cancer care pathway in in a Welsh Health Board to develop service delivery options.
  • 2019 - 2023: Secured funding for a KESS 2 East PhD Studentship: Evaluating the use of the Recovery Through Activity framework used by Occupational Therapy in Mental Health Services in a Welsh Health Board.
  • 2019 - 2023: Secured funding for a KESS 2 East PhD Studentship: Challenging the school-to-prison pipeline for children with neurodevelopmental disorders in Pupil Referral Units.
  • 2022: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by Accelerate Cymru to explore the creation of community-led Health Resilience Centres in areas of high socioeconomic deprivation.
  • 2021: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by The Bukeability Trust to evaluate a series of projects aimed at increasing cycling amongst children with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • 2018 - 2019: Principle Investigator on a grant awarded by the Rees Jeffrey’s Road Fund to measure the efficacy of an augmented reality road safety educational game for children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).
  • 2017 - 2018: 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.
  • 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 am passionate about teaching and currently module lead a Level 5 research methods module on the BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy programme, as well as a Level 7 research methods module (HCT344) for MSc students. I also module lead a level 7 Public Health, Health Economics and Policy module (HCT203) and jointly module lead a level 7 empircal dissertation module (HCT117).


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

Academic positions

2018 - 2020: Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University

2012 - 2018: Senior Lecturer, University of South Wales


I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

I have successfully supervised the following students to completion:

I'm interested in research relating to either neurodivergent children and adults (for example: Dyspraxia / Developmental Coordination Disorder; Developmental Language Disorder; ADHD, Auttism Spectrum Conditions; Dyslexia) and / or active travel.


  • Neurodiversity
  • active travel
  • Behaviour Change