PROFESSOR jo van herwegen


I am an Associate Professor in Psychology at UCL Institute of Education. 

After obtaining a BA in Linguistics and an MA in psycholinguistics at the University of Antwerp, I moved to London in 2004 where I obtained an MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology at Birkbeck College London.

I worked for a few years as a researcher for Prof. Annette Karmiloff-Smith (Birkbeck College London), Prof Julie Dockrell and Dr. Matthew Saxton (Institute of Education) before I started my PhD under the supervision of Dr. Gabriella Rundblad and Dr. Dagmara Annaz at King’s College London.

In my PhD I investigated metaphor and metonymy comprehension in typically developing children and children with Williams Syndrome.  After my PhD, I was a post-doctoral researcher with Dr Dagmara Annaz at Middlesex University for a few months. I joined Kingston University from 2010 to 2018 where I started the Child Development and Learning Difficulties  (CDLD) lab.


My research focuses mainly on language and number development in both typical and atypical developmental disorders, such as Williams syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down syndrome, and Specific Language Impairment. Linking the aforementioned areas of research activity, I am interested in individual differences, as well as exploring what cognitive abilities and strategies relate to successful performance in typical populations and how these differ in atypical populations, in order to aid the development of economically valid training programmes. I believe that it is important to study abilities from infancy onwards in order to obtain a better understanding of how cognitive abilities develop over time and how performance across different cognitive areas relate to each other. I employ a range of methods and experimental designs, including spontaneous language samples, preferential looking, experimental tasks, and eye tracking (Tobii).

I use a range of methodologies and for some of my studies. I use a Tobii eye-tracker which records the eye-movements of the participant. This harmless and non-invasive recording device allows me to investigate where and how long a participant was looking at while performing a certain task/ watching TV.

Professional Activities

Organiser of BPS seminar series: Neurodevelopmental disorders seminar series (2012-2013) with co-organisers E. Farran (Institute of Education) and D. Riby (Newcastle University).

I am an asssociate editor for Journal Research in Developmental Disabilities and a member of the advisory board of Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

I occasionally review submissions for International Journal of Language & Communication DisordersJournal of Clinical and Experimental PsychologyBritish Journal of Educational PsychologyResearch in Developmental DisabilitiesDevelopmental Science, Frontiers and Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.

I am the educational needs advisor for the Williams Syndrome Foundation, UK for schools and parents and I am a Fellow of Higher Academy for Education.


For parents of children with Williams Syndrome by Prof Jo Van Herwegen

Supporting reading in Williams Syndrome 

Naughty behaviour and punishment in WS 

Williams Syndrome and diagnosis of other disorders 

Comorbidity Williams Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorders 

Writing in Williams Syndrome: pen or keyboard? 

WS is genetic: what does it (not) mean? 

Language Abilities in Williams syndrome