Melvin Attard

Doctoral Researcher

Current Status

PhD (Part time). 

Research Topic

Exploring the issues in developing awareness training about autism for paediatricians, mainstream secondary school teachers and police officers in Malta.  

Research Summary

The purpose of my study is to explore the issues in developing awareness training about autism for paediatricians, mainstream secondary school teachers and police officers to understand better people with autism and thus respond more appropriately to their needs.

Being the first study based in Malta on this topic, I first considered the priority groups. Family paediatricians are usually the first professionals to meet children with autism in the initial years and their knowledge is regarded as very important in order to identify autism as early as possible and guide parents on how to start the right intervention. I also chose to focus on mainstream secondary school teachers since the majority of individuals with high-functioning autism in Malta attend mainstream schools and scant attention has been given to secondary school teachers. Community police were also selected since autism is an invisible condition and literature suggests that very often their behaviour tends to be easily misinterpreted especially when youths and adults are unsupervised in the community.

This study aims to explore some unanswered questions such as what motivates professionals to attend awareness-raising training on various topics, and what did they find useful in these programmes in terms of whether such programmes were followed by a positive change in their practice. Although numerous research studies emphasise the need for professionals to become more informed on autism, literature seems to leave out recommendations on how this information can successfully reach professionals. It is not clear what motivates professionals to attend autism-awareness training and what needs to be considered when developing such training to encourage attendance and reduce any barriers these professionals face to transfer acquired knowledge to their daily practice. Thus, this study intends to listen to the voices of professionals from these three disciplines. Their views will be gathered through the use of an online survey and in-depth interviews. It is expected that the data gathered will shed light on those qualities that are likely to increase the likelihood that any awareness-raising programme on autism which reaches these professionals is successful and effective. This understanding may be used to create potential guidelines through which selected professionals can receive relevant information on autism that will be useful to the particular work that they do, when responding to the needs of individuals with autism.

Research interests

  • Autism training for professionals
  • Social inclusion of people with autism
  • Autism for the layperson
  • Generating autism understanding

Research Supervisors

Dr Despina Papoudi

Dr Glenys Jones 

Source of Funding

Malta Government Scholarship Scheme

Contact Details