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Working towards developing disability research

Media Release
10 July 2006

Working towards developing disability research in New Zealand

Students and established research teams have been paired together to develop disability research through an exciting initiative funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

The Disability Research Placement Programme is designed to place disability research students with ‘first-class’ research teams in the disability and health sector.

A key goal of the programme is to train and support graduate students in developing their own research proposals. In turn, it is hoped this will foster the development and growth of disability health research in New Zealand.

Applications closed in April 2006 and following a peer review process, 11 students were placed with eight prestigious research teams. These research teams have a strong track record of relevant and successful research, and the ability to provide a supportive environment for students wishing to undertake disability focused research.

A number of areas within the disability sector, including injury, congenital disability and experiences surrounding disability, will be investigated by students completing their Masters and PhD degrees.

A full list of recommended student partnerships with research teams follows:

Student Research Team
Mrs Margaret Jones (PhD) Professor Kathryn McPherson, Person Centred Rehabilitation Research; Auckland University of Technology
Student’s Research Interests
Building on her existing research Margaret Jones will work with families/whanau and children/young people who have experienced brain injury. This includes investigating what is important to them and issues surrounding activity and participation.

Research Team
Ms Janet McDonald (Masters) Dr Jackie Cumming, Health Services Research Centre; Victoria University of Wellington
Student’s Research Interests
Exploring the lives of ‘young carers’ in NZ, both from the child’s perspective and from those they care for. A ‘young carer’ is a person aged up to 25 years who supports a family member or friend who has a disability, is frail aged or who has a chronic mental or physical disability.

Research Team
Mrs Hilda Mulligan
(PhD) Professor David Baxter, Centre for Physiotherapy Research; University of Otago
Student’s Research Interests
To inform the physiotherapy profession by enhancing participation in recreational physical activity in individuals with disability to address prevention of secondary conditions such as heart disease, obesity and impairments associated with inactivity.

Research Team
Mr John Parsons (PhD) Professor Martin Conolly, Department of Medicine, and School of Population Health; University of Auckland
Student’s Research Interests
To develop goal setting opportunities for older individuals, in particular the development of a standardised goal facilitation tool for use with older people in NZ.

Research Team
Mrs Marilyn Raffensperger (PhD) Associate Professor Anne Bray, Donald Beasley Institute
Student’s Research Interests
Exploring counselling for clients with an intellectual disability. Specifically, the counselling process and outcome from the viewpoints of counsellors, clients with an intellectual disability and support people chosen by the client.

Research Team
Dr Nina Sawicki (Masters) Associate Professor Anne Bray, Donald Beasley Institute
Student’s Research Interests
The experiences of parents’ whose children undergo Cochlear Implantation, including the conflicts and choices facing these parents, ethical issues, support services and in-depth personal experiences of the process.

Research Team
Mr Richard Smaill (PhD) Associate Professor Pauline Barnett, Christchurch Disability & Rehabilitation Research Collaboration; University of Otago
Student’s Research Interests
To investigate disability and ageing in NZ, including the emerging pattern of demand and need, policy and strategies, personal implications of ageing with a disability and quality of life.

Research Team
Ms Kirsten Smiler (PhD) Dr Jackie Cumming, Health Services Research Centre; Victoria University of Wellington
Student’s Research Interests
Kirsten Smiler’s research interests focus on deaf/hearing impaired Māori children. In particular, looking at what is a ‘successful intervention’ from the perspective of the Māori deaf/hearing impaired child and their whanau.

Research Team
Ms Hilary Stace (PhD) Dr Jackie Cumming, Health Services Research Centre; Victoria University of Wellington
Student’s Research Interests
To investigate the nature and support services for people and families/whanau affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Specifically, what services and supports improve access to an ordinary life for those affected by ASD.

Research Team
Dr Katrina Varian (PhD) Associate Professor Anne Bray, Donald Beasley Institute
Student’s Research Interests
Investigating how people with disabilities experience falls and how they interpret them. This will include research into activity levels and the nature of built and natural environments.

Research Team
Miss Melanie Brown (PhD) Associate Professor Richard Siegert, Rehabilitation Teaching & Research Unit; University of Otago
Student’s Research Interests
Exploring the perspectives of disabled persons in utilising rehabilitation services and the impact of contextual barriers on successful rehabilitation.


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