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Research and Innovation Council

Inspire has developed a Research and Innovation Council which brings together expertise and knowledge and acts as an advisory body regarding the development of its services, and to widen its circle of influence and support to the larger community.

The mission of this council is to provide recommendations whereby Inspire can continue to build on achievements and generate a robust evidence base for future developments. The Research and Innovation Council is guided by expertise reflecting professional and lived-in experience.

To achieve this, the Research and Innovation Council will adopt the following advisory role:

Council Members

Prof. Richard Mills

Chairperson

Richard is currently an Associate Consultant, AT-Autism, London, and a Research Fellow in the dept of Psychology, University of Bath, He is also a visiting Professor at Taisho University, Tokyo, Japan: Senior Research Fellow and visiting Scholar, Bond University, Queensland, Australia, and an Associate lecturer, at the Tizard Centre, at the University of Kent.  

Richard holds other positions as a Consultant, Autism Resource Centre (ARC) Singapore; Advisor: Government of Jersey CI: and as Research Associate, Centre for Practice Innovation, Scottish Autism. Richard also has a long association and strong connection with Malta. In the early 1990’s he became an adviser to the Eden Foundation, and in more recent years the Inspire Foundation.

His other activities and interests include, Expert member, National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE), the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), the Cabinet Office, London: He is an Editor of ‘Autism the International Journal of Research and Practice’ Sage, and ‘Advances in Autism’ Emerald. He is a member of the Westminster Autism Commission and a trustee the John and Lorna Wing Foundation.

For twenty-five years Richard was with the National Autistic Society, London, UK, as Director of Services, and later Director of Research, a joint appointment with Research Autism, London.

His current research and practice interests are in programme and service evaluation, autism and mental health, forensic issues, in particular cybercrime, and in behaviours of concern- the Synergy programme. He is a lead on the SPELL framework programme in conjunction with the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent. He has authored numerous scientific articles.

Blaine Schembri

Member

Blaine Schembri was diagnosed with autism at the age of 7, and has been working in the Disability Sector for well over 9 years and with the Autism Advisory Council for 4 years. His role, along with other members, is to partake in meetings where discussions are made to conduct creative ideas, host events that focus on strategies for disabled and autistic individuals in multiple districts. His target is advocacy, seeking partnerships, and making Malta, along with other European countries, more autism-friendly.

Dr. Louis Camilleri

Member
  • Health Care & Profession’s Council (HCPC) warranted Educational & Child Psychologist
  • Lecturer at the University of Malta – Department for Inclusion & Access to Learning, Faculty of Education.
  • Obtained a Professional Doctorate in educational & child psychology from the University of East London in 2013.
  • Areas of specialism are child development, learning, autism spectrum disorders, dynamic assessment, cognition and mediative processes in learning.
  • Experienced in working directly with children of various ages, and with their parents, and use various evidence-based assessment and intervention tools.

Dr. Rita Micallef

Member

Dr Micallef is a senior lecturer with the University of Malta and lectures on various topics including: Disability Issues, Communication and Intellectual Impairment, Collaborative Practices, Language and Psychiatry, Challenging Behaviour and has also lectured at various European Universities on ASD.

She is also nominated as an expert in the field of emotional intelligence to lecture to students from all over Europe and has lectured at various universities in Europe. She holds a Doctorate in Education: Area researched: Emotions as indicators of performance – Towards a redefinition of professionalism in the post modern workplace. She is a Licensed Trainer with the National Autistic Society (NAS) and organizes both parent and professionals training programmes in the area of autism at Inspire.

Dr Micallef is also an appointed education consultant with the Foundation and a Trustee of the same Foundation. Dr Micallef is the Director Allied Health Care Services  within the Health Division and she is responsible for the plan of services provided by 21 Allied Health Professions, in various different locations  in Malta and Gozo. She is qualified in Training and Human Resource Management and in Clinical Speech and Language Studies. She is a Member on the Board of Studies and the Board of Examiners of the Communication Therapy Division – University of Malta, and a member on the Research  Ethics Board and Peer Review Board of the Institute of Education. She has extensive experience lecturing and training including the facilitation of workshops and seminars in Emotional Intelligence.

Dr. Ruth Moyse

Member

Dr Ruth Moyse is a Director & Associate at AT-Autism and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. She is a qualified teacher and completed her doctoral studies at the Institute of Education, University of Reading, where her work was funded by the John and Lorna Wing Foundation. Her research interest lies in the education of autistic children and young people, particularly the female experience, and more widely in autistic wellbeing. Ruth is an advocate for participatory research and the co-production of knowledge and chooses creative methods of engagement that centre autistic people and their views.  

She is the autistic co-Lead on an innovative pilot autism Train the Trainer training programme for adult mental health inpatient settings in London and the Southeast. This joint venture between AT-Autism and Anna Freud Centre has been co-created and co-delivered with autistic and non-autistic colleagues, including experts by experience. In addition, Ruth is a guest lecturer/speaker on autism, inclusion, and wellbeing at a range of organisations in the UK and Europe, plus sits on a number of neurodiversity advisory boards and steering groups. She is also an Associate Tutor at the University of Strathclyde where she supervises Masters students. Ruth has two children, one of whom is autistic, and is autistic herself.

Dr. Elena Giouroukou

Member

Elena Giouroukou is a psychologist. She has clinical and research interest in autism. She has worked in different settings and her early experience was in the diagnostic assessment of autistic children. Her current work focuses in the cognitive aspects of autism, both in terms of assessment and intervention.

In 2014, she became a member of a small team of psychologists and teachers that collaborated with Richard Mills, in a project that sought to find ways to support teachers who in turn supported pupils with autism. The project led to the development of the Synergy programme, which offers support to schools working with children with challenging behaviour. Since then, Elena works as a mentor for teachers in different school settings, particularly collaborating with teachers who work with autistic children.

As a private practice CBT therapist, Elena Giouroukou focuses in working with adolescents with high-functioning autism as well as the families of children who exhibit challenging behaviours.

She considers herself lucky for having the chance to experience again and again how autistic children develop their strengths and successfully cope with their everyday challenges. The works of the autistic mind, the difficulties and limitless capacities, will her to never stop trying to understand.

Chris O’Dwyer

Member

An accountant by profession, specializing in insurance accounting and regulation, Chris met his wife Marvic, who is Maltese, in Dublin. They relocated to Malta and married in 2010. Together, they are the very proud parents of two boys Ronan and Joseph, born in 2011 and 2016 respectively. During Ronan’s diagnosis process, they have been active in learning about autism and about therapies, strategies and organisations that could help improve their family’s life. Chris has been, and remains, active in contributing to such organisations. Their family moved to the UK from 2015 to 2020 in search of more specialized autism services. As a family, they strive to assess and to do what is best for their sons, who cannot express themselves verbally. Whilst doing so, Chris takes every opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of autism and the realities that it presents to families like theirs.

Nathalie Buhagiar

Member

Nathalie Buhagiar qualified as an Occupational Therapist from the Institute of Health Care, Malta  in 1989 and pioneered Paediatric Occupational Therapy, setting up the main Paediatric Occupational Therapy service in Malta in 1991. She obtained  a Masters Degree in Paediatric Occupational Therapy from University of East London and worked with Calderdale Trust, in the Child Development Centre in Halifax,  West Yorkshire.In 2001, she was awarded a scholarship by the University of Southern California to attend OT610, a specialised intensive training course in Sensory Integration and was  the first Occupational Therapist to practice  and promote Sensory Integration Therapy in Malta. In 2008 Nathalie was awarded the Allied Health Professions Award for Excellence in Healthcare.

In 2009, after working in the health sector for 20 years, Nathalie took up a post in Educational leadership, more specifically as Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion forming part of the school’s senior management team. In this post she had the opportunity to embed her Occupational Therapy skills in the context of the school. She also provided supervision to local and foreign Occupational Therapy students on practice placements in the school.

In April 2013 she was awarded  a Fulbright Scholarship at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, USA.The title of her project was “Occupational Therapy, special needs and inclusion: serving children in home, school and community”. 

Nathalie became a full time resident academic member of staff within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Malta in September 2015, following 25 years of service as a visiting lecturer and eventually senior lecturer.  She has recentily completed her doctoral degree in Occupational Science at University College Cork, Ireland. Her doctoral work and research involved conceptualizing a collaborative model of school based occupational therapy for Malta.  She also continues to support educators in the school system though university community partnerships, professional development, collaboration and consultation. She aspires to support the development of school based OT services in Malta.

Besides teaching and supervising  undergraduate and post graduate students reading for degrees in OT, inclusive education and disability studies  she is currently part of a team of professionals who are developing a smart user centred product for improving hand function in children with Cerebral Palsy. She is a senate appointed member on the UM Access Disability Support Committee and working group.

Nathalie is a wife and mother of three young adults, likes to be involved in voluntary work when possible, enjoys travelling, choir singing, swimming regularly, attending cultural , musical and theatrical events and spending time with her family and friends.

Paula Doumanov

Secretary

Paula Doumanov qualified as an Occupational Therapist (OT) in 1994, and subsequently obtained a Masters in OT from the University of Exeter (UK). During the last 28 years of her career, she worked as an OT in several countries including the USA, UK, Bulgaria and Malta, enabling her to gain extensive experience in a range of diverse settings.

She initially specialized as a therapist in the field of neurology, and later became a Clinical Specialist and Clinical Lead OT – setting up OT services and providing professional leadership in Accident and Emergency and Supported Discharge Teams as part of Winter Pressure initiatives to reduce waiting lists within the National Health Service (NHS), as well as OT services within a newly established Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Service in the UK.

During the past eight years Paula was employed by Inspire as the Chief Services Officer leading all disability related services/programmes. As part of the organizations drive towards excellence, after completing a Quality Management Systems Auditor Training Course, Paula’s role changed to that of Chief Quality Officer responsible for driving total quality management and internal control across the organization in order to ensure that the design and content, as well as the delivery of all of its services, are of the highest possible standard and quality. Paula is also responsible for establishing Inspires Research and Innovation Council, bringing together expertise and knowledge to widen the organizations circle of influence and support to the larger community.