Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Dr Elena Sakkalou

Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Psychology and Sport Science
Areas of Expertise:
Mind and Behaviour
Research Supervision:
Courses taught:

Elena specialises in typical infant and child development and neurodevelopmental disorders, focusing on cognitive and social-communicative development and how it is affected by neurodisability.

[email protected]


Before joining ARU in 2019, Elena was a Senior Research Associate at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, where she worked on longitudinal and cross-sectional studies looking at the cognitive, social and brain development of children with congenital severe visual impairment from 12 months to seven years.

She also worked with clinicians and academics including Dr Naomi Dale, Dr Alison Salt and Prof Michelle de Haan on a project examining the effects of an early intervention programme (Developmental Journal for Visual Impairment) on developmental trajectories for cognition and language.

Elena was the Senior Researcher in a team of clinicians developing an assessment for autism in children with congenital severe visual impairment and vision disorders and worked with parents examining mother-infant interactions and parenting stress.

Elena conducted her PhD at Cardiff University with Dr Merideth Gattis on imitation in typically developing infants. Following her PhD, Elena was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Cardiff, where she investigated the longitudinal development of imitation abilities in infants from one month to two years, observed through diary entries from parents and experimental methods in the lab.

Elena is a member of the ARU Centre for Mind and Behaviour.

Research interests

Elena's research focuses on typical development and neurodevelopmental disorders, and the effect that neurodisability has on cognitive, socio-communicative and brain development. She's interested in severe visual impairment, autism and infants born with intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR). Elena is also interested in the effect of environmental factors on infant and child development (e.g., parent-infant interactions, parenting stress, early intervention). Other interests include research methodology - behavioural and brain measures and how to apply these to learn about developmental maturation and developmental trajectories.

Areas of research supervision

Elena would be pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students with an interest in developmental psychology. Find out more about our Psychology PhD and exciting PhD project opportunities.

  • Becoming a Researcher
  • Issues in Child Development and Social Psychology
  • Psychology in the Workplace (Module leader)
  • Social and Developmental Psychology (Module leader)
  • PhD in Psychology – Cardiff University
  • MSc in Child Development and Learning – Oxford Brookes University
  • MSc in Research Methods in Psychology – University of Reading
  • BSc in Psychology – Davidson College (USA)
  • PGCert in Counselling Skills (BACD accredited) – University of Wales Newport
  • Fellow of Higher Education Academy
Memberships, editorial boards
  • Member of the British Academy of Childhood Disability
  • Honorary Senior Research Associate – UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
  • Elena is a workshop organiser for the Mary Kitzinger Trust, which brings together clinicians, academics and practitioners working to further the education, training and research in psychology of children with visual impairment and developmental difficulties.
Selected recent publications

Dale, N. J., Sakkalou, E., O'Reilly, M. A., Springall, C., Sakki, H., Glew, S., Pissaridou, E., de Haan, M. & Salt, A., 2019. Home-based early intervention in infants and young children with visual impairment using the Developmental Journal: longitudinal cohort study. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 61(6), pp.697-709.

Sakkalou, E., Sakki, H., O'Reilly, M., Salt, A., & Dale, N. J., 2018. Parenting stress, anxiety and depression in mothers of one- and two-year-old children with visual impairment: cross-sectional and longitudinal cohort analysis. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 60(3), pp.290-298.

O'Reilly, M. A., Bathelt, J., Sakkalou, E., Sakki, H., Salt, A., Dale, N. J., & de Haan, M., 2017. Frontal EEG asymmetry and later behavior vulnerability in infants with congenital visual impairment. Clinical Neurophysiology, 128(11), pp.2191-2199.

Dale, N., Sakkalou, E., O’Reilly M.A., Springall, C., de Haan, M., Salt, A., 2017. Cognition and functional vision of a national cohort of infants with congenital vision disorders and severe visual impairment. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 59(7), pp.725-731.

Hilbrink, E. E., Sakkalou, E., Ellis-Davies, K., Fowler, N., & Gattis, M., 2013. Selective and faithful imitation at 12 and 15 months. Developmental Science, 16, pp.828-840.

Sakkalou, E., Ellis-Davies, K., Fowler, C. N., Hilbrink, E. E., & Gattis, M., 2013. Infants show stability of goal-directed imitation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, pp.1-9.

Ellis-Davies, K., Sakkalou, E., Fowler, N. C., Hilbrink, E. E., & Gattis, M., 2012. CUE: the continuous unified electronic diary method. Behavior Research Methods, 44, pp.1063-1078.

Sakkalou, E., & Gattis, M., 2012. Infants infer intentions from prosody. Cognitive Development, 27(1), pp.1-16.