Professor Caroline Richards PhD, ClinPsyD

Professor Caroline Richards

School of Psychology
Professor of Neurodevelopmental Conditions
Deputy Head of Education

Contact details

School of Psychology
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

The aim of Professor Richards’ research is to reduce negative clinical outcomes for individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Her work with children with autism and children with rare genetic syndromes has thus far focused on reducing self-injury, improving sleep disorders and understanding the impact of premature birth. Her research uses experimental, epidemiological, single case and meta-analytic techniques to delineate risk markers, improve precision in models of mechanism and develop novel, proactive interventions.

Professor Richards collaborates with colleagues at the Cerebra Network for Neurodevelopmental Disorders.



  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, 2007, University of Birmingham
  • PhD Psychology, 2012, University of Birmingham
  • ClinPsyD, 2015, University of Birmingham


Professor Richards completed her BSc in Psychology at the University of Birmingham in 2007 and completed her PhD in 2012, supervised by Professor Chris Oliver. Her PhD was in self-injurious behaviour in children and adults with autism spectrum disorder and combined large epidemiological surveys of risk markers, with single case experimental designs using fine grained behavioural observations. In 2010, alongside the completion of her PhD, Professor Richards undertook training as a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Birmingham. She completed this training in 2015, which included specialist placements conducting assessments of children ‘at risk’ of autism and a seminal meta-analytic study of autism characteristics in rare genetic syndromes.

In 2015 she began her post-doctoral fellowship at the Cerebra Centre for Neurodevelopmental Disorders, leading work assessing sleep problems in children with rare genetic syndromes. In June 2017 she was appointed as Lecturer in Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Birmingham and promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2020.


Professor Richards is Module Lead for ‘Atypical development and early intervention’.

Postgraduate supervision

  • Georgie Agar, PhD candidate – University of Birmingham
  • Lucy Licence, PhD candidate – University of Birmingham
  • Catherine Laverty, PhD candidate – University of Birmingham
  • Andrea Thomas, PhD candidate – University of Birmingham
  • Alice Winsor, PhD candidate – University of Birmingham (co-supervisor)
  • Connor Keating, PhD candidate – University of Birmingham (co-supervisor)
  • Kaysha Lucas, ClinPsyD candidate – University of Birmingham
  • Natalie Hallett, ClinPsyD candidate – University of Birmingham
  • Elizabeth Hawkins, ClinPsyD candidate – University of Birmingham

Professor Richards welcomes applications from talented and enthusiastic students who are interested in the study of neurodevelopmental disorders. For informal enquiries about potential projects please email


Scopus Author ID, 7201655991,

Research interests

Identifying risk markers for self-injury in neurodevelopmental groups to understanding mechanisms underpinning aetiology and maintenance. This includes work on physical health and pain, and impulsivity. Developing and delivering robust, preventative early interventions to reduce self-injury and other behaviour disorders. Contrasting development of self-harm in children with neurodevelopmental disorders and self-harm in typically developing children and adolescents. 

Sleep Disorders
Using direct (actigraphy) and informant report measures to delineate sleep difficulties in autism and rare genetic syndromes (e.g., Angelman syndrome, Smith-Magenis syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis Complex). 

Social Development and Autism in ‘At Risk’ Populations
Understanding social cognition and social functioning in individuals with rare genetic syndromes (e.g., Phelan-McDermid syndrome) and in children born prematurely.

Other activities

Professor Richards is Associate Editor for Research in Developmental Disabilities and Secretary for the Autism Spectrum Disorder Special Interest Research Group, International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.


Highlight publications

Richards, C, Jones, C, Groves, L, Moss, J & Oliver, C 2015, 'Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder phenomenology in genetic disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis', The Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 2, no. 10, pp. 909–916.

Richards, C, Oliver, C, Nelson, L & Moss, J 2012, 'Self-injurious behaviour in individuals with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability', Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, vol. 56, no. 5, pp. 476–489.

Oliver, C & Richards, C 2015, 'Practitioner Review: Self-injurious behaviour in children with developmental delay', Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 56, no. 10, pp. 1042-1054.

Agar, G, Brown, C, Sutherland, D, Coulborn, S, Oliver, C & Richards, C 2021, 'Sleep disorders in rare genetic syndromes: a meta-analysis of prevalence and profile', Molecular Autism, vol. 12, no. 1, 18.

Agar, G, Oliver, C & Richards, C 2022, 'Direct assessment of overnight parent-child proximity in children with behavioral insomnia: extending models of operant and classical conditioning', Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

Recent publications


O’Sullivan, R, Bissell, S, Agar, G, Spiller, J, Surtees, A, Heald, M, Clarkson, E, Khan, A, Oliver, C, Bagshaw, AP & Richards, C 2024, 'Exploring an objective measure of overactivity in children with rare genetic syndromes', Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, vol. 16, no. 1, 18.

Shelley, L, Waite, J, Tarver, J, Oliver, C, Crawford, H, Richards, C & Bissell, S 2023, 'Behaviours that Challenge in SATB2-associated Syndrome: Correlates of Self-injury, Aggression and Property Destruction', Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

O'Sullivan, R, Bissell, S, Hamilton, A, Bagshaw, A & Richards, C 2023, 'Concordance of objective and subjective measures of sleep in children with neurodevelopmental conditions: A systematic review and metaanalysis', Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 71, 101814.

Martin, JA, Robertson, K, Richards, C, Scerif, G, Baker, K & Tye, C 2023, 'Experiences of parents of children with rare neurogenetic conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic: an interpretative phenomenological analysis', BMC psychology, vol. 11, no. 1, 179.

Jenner, L, Richards, C, Howard, R & Moss, J 2023, 'Heterogeneity of Autism Characteristics in Genetic Syndromes: Key Considerations for Assessment and Support', Current Developmental Disorders Reports, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 132-146.

Taylor, EL, Thompson, PA, Manktelow, N, Flynn, S, Gillespie, D, Bradshaw, J, Gore, N, Liew, A, Lovell, M, Sutton, K, Richards, C, Petrou, S, Langdon, PE, Grant, G, Cooper, V, Seers, K & Hastings, RP 2023, 'Mapping and identifying service models for community-based services for children with intellectual disabilities and behaviours that challenge in England', BMC Health Services Research, vol. 23, no. 1, 1354.

Groves, L, Jones, C, Welham, A, Hamilton, A, Liew, A & Richards, C 2023, 'Non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions for the reduction or prevention of topographies of behaviours that challenge in people with intellectual disabilities: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials', The Lancet Psychiatry, vol. 10, no. 9, pp. 682-692.

Bozhilova, N, Welham, A, Adams, D, Bissell, S, Bruining, H, Crawford, H, Eden, K, Nelson, L, Oliver, C, Powis, L, Richards, C, Waite, J, Watson, P, Rhys, H, Wilde, L, Woodcock, K & Moss, J 2023, 'Profiles of autism characteristics in thirteen genetic syndromes: a machine learning approach', Molecular Autism, vol. 14, no. 1, 3.

Laverty, C, Agar, G, Sinclair-Burton, L, Oliver, C, Moss, J, Nelson, NTCNN & Richards, C 2023, 'The 10-year trajectory of aggressive behaviours in autistic individuals', Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Winsor, A, Richards, C, Seri, S, Liew, A & Bagshaw, A 2023, 'The contribution of sleep and co-occurring neurodevelopmental conditions to quality of life in children with epilepsy', Epilepsy Research, vol. 194, 107188.

Agar, G, Oliver, C, Spiller, J & Richards, C 2023, 'The developmental trajectory of sleep in children with Smith-Magenis syndrome compared to typically developing peers: a 3-year follow-up study', SLEEP Advances, vol. 4, no. 1, zpad034.

Review article

Newell, V, Townsend, E, Richards, C & Cassidy, S 2024, 'Measurement properties of tools used to assess self-harm in autistic and general population adults', Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 109, 102412.

Shelley, L, Jones, C, Pearson, E, Richards, C, Crawford, H, Paricos, A, Greenhill, C, Woodhead, A, Tarver, J & Waite, J 2024, 'Measurement tools for behaviours that challenge and behavioural function in people with intellectual disability: A systematic review and meta-analysis of internal consistency, inter-rater reliability, and test-retest reliability', Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 110, 102434.

Marlow, K, Agar, G, Jones, C, Devine, RT & Richards, C 2024, 'The Prevalence and Correlates of Self-restraint in Individuals with Autism and/or Intellectual Disability: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis', Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Newell, V, Phillips, L, Jones, C, Townsend, E, Richards, C & Cassidy, S 2023, 'A systematic review and meta-analysis of suicidality in autistic and possibly autistic people without co-occurring intellectual disability', Molecular Autism, vol. 14, no. 1, 12.

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