Dr Niamh-Elizabeth Reilly

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Position: Associate Lecturer and Online Tutor

College: College of Life & Natural Sciences

Subject area: Sport and Exercise

Research Centre: Centre for Psychological Research

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I am an associate lecturer in the Sport and Exercise department and an online tutor for the Psychology department. I teach across a range of undergraduate modules, I supervise undergraduate research projects and I undertake research in the area of motor control and learning, skill acquisition, sport psychology and cognitive functioning (with a specialism in intellectual disabilities and Down syndrome). Additionally, I establish links with external research groups and organisations to assist in the professional development and employability of our students.

Teaching responsibilities

My teaching responsibilities include:

Associate lecturer

  • Principles of Sport and Exercise Psychology (Level 4)
  • The Sport & Exercise Environment (Level 4)
  • Sports Coaching (Level 5)
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology (Level 5)
  • Adapted Physical Activity (Level 5)
  • Paediatric Physical Activity (Level 6)
  • Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology (Level 6)
  • Elite Sports Development (Level 6)
  • Supervision of undergraduate research projects for the Independent Studies for Sport and Exercise Module (Level 6)

Online Tutor

  • Research Methods and Analysis in Psychology (Level 4)
  • Introduction to Cognitive Psychology (Level 4)
  • Introduction to Biological Psychology (Level 4)

Professional interests

I have recently completed my doctoral PhD research where I conducted novel research which investigated the underlying mechanisms of dual limb extension and reversal sequential aiming movements in individuals with Down Syndrome and Intellectual Disabilities. I also conducted research investigating anxiety and how it affects skill acquisition in adults with and without Intellectual Disabilities.

I have always had close involvement with individuals with disabilities through the careers of my family, and am proud to boast a Special Olympic World Games Gold medal winner in my immediate family. As a former international athlete and Loughborough University graduate, I have always had a keen interest in sport from grassroots to elite level and across the lifespan of the athlete. I try to apply my personal knowledge of sport to my inclusive coaching practice as well as my research interests and lecturing specialities.

Research interests

  • Motor Control and Learning
  • Intellectual Disabilities
  • Down syndrome
  • Special Olympics
  • Motor Activities Training Programme (MATP) and Young athletes Programme (YAP)
  • Engagement
  • Imagery Training and Use
  • Anxiety (and how it affects skill acquisition)
  • The Use of Music in Skill Acquisition
  • Inclusive Sports Programmes

Membership of professional bodies

  • British Psychological Society (BPS) - MBPsS
  • British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES)
  • Special Olympics International (SOI)
  • International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSID)


Undergraduate qualifications

  • BSc (Hons) Psychology, Loughborough University

Postgraduate qualifications

  • MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology, Bangor University

Research qualifications

  • PhD in Sport Psychology and Motor Learning in Individuals with an Intellectual Disability, Bangor University

Recent publications

  • Lawrence, G P, Reilly, N E, Mottram, T M, Khan, M A, & Elliott, D. (2013). Sequential aiming movements and the one-target advantage in individuals with Down syndrome. Research in developmental disabilities 34(11), 3858-3866.

Recent conferences

  • Presenter at North American Society for Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity Conference, Arizona 2010.
  • Research Delegate and presenter at the Special Olympics World Games, Athens 2011.
  • Presenter at 'International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities' World Conference, Halifax 2012.
  • Presenter at World Down Syndrome Congress, Capetown 2012.
  • Presenter at the UK and European Down Syndrome Research Forum, Bristol 2013.
  • Keynote speaker and presenter at the Kids Play Sport Conference, Stirling, Nottingham, Reading 2014.

Experience in industry

I conducted my doctoral research at Bangor University which investigated new ways of enhancing the motor skills of people with an intellectual/learning disability (specifically Down syndrome). My doctorate aimed to help individuals with intellectual disabilities improve their level of independence and gain more control over their own lives. This research gained me international recognition and I have published and presented a number of scientific articles in this field. 

I have worked in partnership with international disability organisations such as the Special Olympics and Mencap to develop sport and leisure strategies and in the first year of my PhD formed and managed a Welsh national football team for people with an intellectual disability who participated in a European football tournament.

I was selected as a Global Student Research Delegate for the 2011 Special Olympics World Games in Athens. There I presented my research findings and was part of a larger group of scholars who participated in additional sessions focusing on new areas of intellectual disability research and shaping the Special Olympics future research agenda.

On returning from Athens, I set up a student led Special Olympics Bangor group which remains very successful. I also took on the voluntary role of National Technical Advisor for the Special Olympics Great Britain for two years; helping to develop and shape the Motor Activities training programme. I am currently involved with the development and promotion of the Young Athletes Programme across Great Britain which helps promote inclusive sport specific motor skill learning for young children.

I also recently became a Sainsbury's Active Kids For All Inclusive PE Training Programme tutor. I am launching a new business venture this year which will provide high class inclusive coaching provision as well as inclusive and disability specific coach development programmes. These will cater for children and adults with and without disabilities and/or special needs and will also provide personalised programmes and services for individuals, schools, clubs, organisations, parents and families.

In the media

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