Originally qualifying with a BA in linguistics from the University of East Anglia, I went on to study Speech and Language Therapy in London. I worked as a speech and language therapist in Hackney, east London for eight years before moving to City University, London in 1989. There I completed by PhD in 1993 and went on to become Head of Department in 1999 and Professor the following year. In 2004 I moved to Edinburgh to set up the Centre for Integrated Healthcare Research. I moved to Newcastle University in January 2010 as Professor of Speech and Language Science.
I have two main strands of research expertise. My research on child language covers both systematic review in the area of language and communication, and longitudinal cohort analysis looking at the relationship between language performance at school entry through to adulthood.
Out of my work in the field of child language I have developed an interested in the study of cases of extreme deprivation or so called "feral" children.