John Clibbens

Head of the School of Social Sciences

School of Social Sciences
0121 331 5671

John has held a series of academic and managerial positions in universities, as well as working in the NHS for a number of years. University appointments include Head of School, Associate Dean and Dean roles in Psychology, Social Sciences and Health at the Universities of Plymouth and Essex, before taking up his current position at Birmingham City University. He has served on a wide range of regional, national and international bodies, and has supervised a substantial number of PhD students to completion.

Current Activity

John’s core research interests are in language and cognitive development in typically developing children and in a number of special groups, including deaf children and children with Down syndrome and he has published extensively in these areas.

Other recent work has included studies of hemispheric lateralisation in deaf and hearing users of signed and spoken language, evaluation of a multi-professional intervention package for children experiencing difficulties at school, assessing the benefits of a physical exercise programme for children with learning disabilities, evaluating children’s experience of the Common Assessment Framework and the assessment and impact of dementia in people with Down syndrome.

Areas of Expertise

Language and Cognitive Development in Children
Deafness and Sign Language
Down Syndrome


PhD Psychology. Birkbeck, University of London, 1990.
BSc Psychology.  Birkbeck, University of London, 1980.  
BA Humanities: Linguistics Major.  CNAA, 1976. (Minor subjects: Philosophy & English Literature).  
PgDipEd.  University of Plymouth, 1996.


Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society
Chartered Psychologist and Chartered Scientist
Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine


Coventry, K.R., Clibbens, J., Cooper, M. & Rood, B. (1997): Visual speech aids: a British survey of use and evaluation by speech and language therapists. European Journal of Disorders of Communication, 32, 203-216.

Coventry, K.R., Clibbens, J. & Cooper, M. (1997): Specialist speech and language therapists' use and evaluation of visual speech aids. European Journal of Disorders of Communication, 32, 315-323.

Clibbens, J. (1998): Research on the acquisition of British Sign Language: current issues. Deafness and Education, 22, (2), 10-15.

Moore, L.J.K., Clibbens, J. & Dennis, I. (1998): Reference and representation in children with Down syndrome. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 5, 63-70.

Clibbens, J. (1998): The development of spatial reference in British Sign Language. Deafness and Education, 22, (3), 18-23.

Cooper, M., Pettit, E. & Clibbens, J. (1998): Evaluation of a nursery based language intervention in a socially disadvantaged area. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 33 (supplement), 526-531.

Feeney, A., Evans, J.St.B.T. & Clibbens, J. (2000): Background beliefs and evidence interpretation. Thinking and Reasoning, 6, 97-124

Clibbens, J. (2000): Group discussion workshops in advanced undergraduate teaching: an evaluation. Psychology Teaching Review, 9, 11-15.

Clibbens, J. (2001): Signing and lexical development in children with Down syndrome. Down Syndrome Research and Practice, 7, 101-105.

Guijarro-Fuentes, P. & Clibbens, J. (2002): Las pruebas de gramáticalidad: ¿Instrumentos fiables en la recogida de datos en el español como L2? Revista Española de Lingüística Aplicada, 15, 53-71.

Clibbens, J., Powell, G.G. & Atkinson, E. (2002): Strategies for achieving joint attention when signing to children with Down's syndrome. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 37, 309-323.

Evans, J.St.B.T., Clibbens, J., Cattani, A., Harris, A. & Dennis, I. (2003): Explicit and implicit processes in multicue judgment. Memory and Cognition, 31, 608-618.

Richards, L.V., Coventry, K.R. & Clibbens, J. (2004): Where’s the orange? Geometric and extra-geometric influences on English children’s descriptions of spatial locations. Journal of Child Language, 31, 153-175.

Guijarro-Fuentes, P. & Clibbens, J. (2004): Adquisición de las propiedades morfosintácticas del español por parte de bilingües en etapas avanzadas. Estudios de Sociolingüística, 5, 107-128.

Evans, J.St.B.T., Clibbens, J. & Harris, A. (2005): Prior belief and polarity in multicue learning. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58A, 651-665.

Cattani, A. & Clibbens, J. (2005): Atypical lateralization of memory for location: Effects of deafness and sign language use. Brain and Cognition, 58, 226-239.

Cattani, A., Clibbens, J. & Perfect, T.J. (2007): Visual memory for shapes in deaf signers and non-signers and in hearing signers and non-signers: Atypical lateralization and enhancement. Neuropsychology, 21, 114-121.

Clibbens, J. & Sheppard, M. (2007): Are children with learning disabilities really ‘children first’? A needs and outcome evaluation of policy. Social and Public Policy Review, 1, 2.

Clibbens, J. (in press): Signing and communication development in Down syndrome. Down Syndrome Research and Practice.

Merwood, A., McBrien, J. & Clibbens, J. (in submission): Diagnosing dementia in Down syndrome: a UK study of receptive vocabulary as a predictor of test performance using the DMR/DLD.  Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Merwood, A., McBrien, J. & Clibbens, J. (in preparation): ROC curve analysis of the sensitivity and specificity of the DLD in adults with Down syndrome. Target journal: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

McBrien, J., Whitwham, S., Clibbens, J. & Ford, D. (in preparation): Predicting the capacity of residential homes to care for adults with learning disabilities and dementia: a pilot study. Target journal: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

Clibbens, J. (in preparation): Children’s earliest use of the indefinite pronoun “one” in expressive speech. Target journal: Cognition.

Griffin, M. & Clibbens, J. (in preparation): Evaluation of a health and fitness intervention in children with learning disabilities. Target journal: British Journal of Developmental Disabilities.

Clibbens, J., Pidden, S. & Powell, G.G (in preparation): Synchronicity in sign input by mothers of children with Down syndrome.

Griffin, M, Clibbens, J. &  Pretty, J. (in submission): Using green exercise as a restorative for individuals whose mood and self-esteem have been perturbed by a negative task. Psychology of Well-Being.

Sheppard, M. & Clibbens, J. (in): An examination of the preventive process: a comparison of behaviour and education support team work with children’s services. Child Abuse Review.