Up-and-coming researcher Dr Laurie McLay has received an emerging researcher first grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) valued at $160,825 over three years.
Dr McLay will use the grant to continue her research on developing effective treatments for sleep problems that affect the growing number of Aotearoa New Zealand children and young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Dr McLay will be working with a team of psychologists, including Associate Professor Karyn France and Professor Neville Blampied, who are also from UC.
Sleep disruptions such as delayed sleep onset and frequent and prolonged night-time awakenings, can have an enormous impact on how children function during the day and within their families. Such sleep problems are associated with poorer physical and mental health and wellbeing (e.g., obesity, diabetes, mood disorders, and substance abuse), quality of life, cognitive functioning, learning, and academic performance.
Dr McLay says that up to 83 percent of children with ASD experience sleep disturbances, and that these are unlikely to abate over time in these children without effective treatment.
Although these sleep problems are complex in origin, she says evidence suggests there is a learned component that requires behavioural solutions.
“There are poorly understood biochemical differences in children with autism, such as irregular melatonin production and secretion, however, pharmacological strategies like melatonin and sedative medications only offer partial solutions. There is a large, treatable behavioural component to the sleep problem that becomes entwined with the parental behaviours that can unintentionally exacerbate it,” says Dr McLay.
Dr McLay is one of 13 researchers to receive emerging researcher first grants valued at a combined total of $3.03 million in the HRC’s 2017 funding round, up from $1.45 million in 2016.. Read more here.
See dates for 2018 applications>