Personal profile


Karen is a reader in Speech & Language Therapy with a particular focus on children and adults with intellectual disability.


  • The early part of my career was spent in clinical practice, working with people with intellectual disability in special schools and community teams. In 1992 I moved into higher education as a lecturer in the Department of Language & Communication Sciences at City University London. For much of this time I worked as a course director for the degree programme in speech & language therapy, responsible for a major revision and re-modularisation.
  • I was promoted to a senior lectureship in 2000.
  • Since 2003, I have worked at UEA as Course Director for a period of 6 years, jointly leading the set of a new degree course in Speech & Language Therapy.
  • In 2009 I was awarded a readership in Speech & Language Therapy.

Professional Qualifications and professional memberships 

  • Membership of Health Professions Council
  • PhD ‘Development of an Individualised Sensory Environment for Adults with Learning Disabilities and an Evaluation of its Effects on their Interactive Behaviours’. City University London.
  • Registered member of the Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists
  • Dip. Speech Therapy, National Hospitals College of Speech Sciences (NHCSS affiliated to UCL). Licence to practise (L.C.S.T) Pt 1 & 2

Research Group or Lab Membership

Membership of the ‘Participation’ research group in RSC.

Research consultant of the Rix Centre, UEL.

Key Responsibilities

I am currently a Module Coordinator for the BSc (hons) Speech & Language Therapy. I am a member of the steering committee for the Norwich Electronic Assistive Technology centre.

Teaching Interests

My teaching is focused mainly on intellectual disability and autistic spectrum disorders, specifically focusing on language acquisition, pragmatics and discourse, communication ecology, augmentative and alternative communication, special educational needs and speech & language therapy intervention.

I am willing to supervise PGR students in the following areas:

  • Children & adults with intellectual disability
  • Low tech, augmentative communication methods
  • Cognitive impairment & communication
  • Intellectual disability & new media

My current teaching commitments include:

BSc (hons) Speech & Language Therapy

Learning Difficulties: Intellectual   disability & autistic spectrum disorders; speech & language therapy   practice; special education; applied linguistics; research dissertations

Speech & Language Therapy Practice:   preparation for placement workshops

Clinical Psychology Doctorate programme: Communication   disorders across the spectrum & intervention options

PGCE: Communication needs of young children

Research Skills (2): quantitative research   methods; observational research

Final year research dissertations: group   based research projects


Key Research Interests

Karen’s research interests lie in the field of developmental disability, in particular children and adults with severe to profound, intellectual and multiple disabilities associated with complex communication needs. This interest has supported research both in the U.K. and in Kenya. The driving force in Karen’s research activities lies in the explication of human interaction with a particular focus on children and adults with developmental disability. This is defined by four key areas:

  • Assistive technology: the development and application of rich and multiple media, exploration of methods to augment natural communication methods and the role of human mediation.
  • Childhood disability in developing countries, in particular Africa: social responses and impact of disability, habilitation opportunities provided, e.g. speech & language therapy.
  • Human interaction: in particular the communication partnership of individual with intellectual disability and a typically functioning supporter, e.g. teacher and student with intellectual disability; support worker and user of services.
  • Accessibility of language forms, including discourse in text, on television and on the World Wide Web.

Recent and ongoing research has involved investigating rehabilitation provision for young people growing up with disability in a rural part of Kenya, teacher-student talk in the special needs classroom, the role of human mediation in computer-based activities, the effects of a home-based intervention on children with complex communication needs in a rural part of Kenya. 

Karen has written and contributed to a number of texts on the subject of intellectual disability.


Bunning, K. (PI), Gona, J. & Newton, C. (2013-14). Preparation for Communication for All (Pre-CALL). CT Trust: £40,000.

Bunning, K. (PI), Gona, J., Hartley, S., Newton, C. (UEA & KEMRI) (2010-12). Communication for ALL (CALL). CT Trust: £30,000.

Platform Presentations (last 10 years)



Impacts of new media methods on the individual for self advocacy and self-determination.

Intellectual Disability Forum: The place of new media in the care and education of people with intellectual disabilities

Royal Society of Medicine, London.


Making connections: evaluation of a total communication strategy in services for adults with intellectual disability

Information & Communication Technology (ICT) for Young People with Intellectual Disability: the role of human mediation

Congress Abstracts: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52, pt 8 & 9.

13h World Congress of IASSID – People with Intellectual Disabilities: Citizens in the World. Cape Town, South Africa.


Rich & multiple media: the new face of communication for young people with learning difficulties?

Rich and multiple media: a place in the advocacy process?

Multi Media Conference. ESRC- PACCIT sponsored; University of East London.


Making sense in primary care: the challenge of negotiating health when you have a communication disability.

Congress Abstracts: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 44, pt 3 & 4.

12th World Congress of IASSID - Towards Mutual Understanding: Person, Environment & Community. Montpelier, France.


Profound learning disability & multiple impairment.

Wicked issues for people with complex needs.

Focus on practice: theory, research and clinical skills. British Psychological Society: Holloway, London.



Communication profiling: capturing interactions between carer and client;

Whose service is it anyway? Promoting communication access to information

Congress Abstracts: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 44, pt 3 & 4.

1st European Congress of IASSID, Dublin, Eire.


Hearing impairment: the case for a systematic approach to detection.

Learning to be common in therapy: crossing the client group divide.

Interpreting the communication of people with severe-profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Responding to the challenge: examining the role of communication in challenging behaviour interventions.

RCSLT National Scientific Conference, Birmingham, UK.


Unconscious intention or meaning to challenge?

Intellectual Disability Forum: Achievements, Difficulties and the Future for People with learning Disabilities. Royal Society of Medicine, London.


Hearing impairment: the case for a systematic approach to detection.

Effects of sensory-based intervention on interactive behaviour.

Interpreting the communication of people with severe-profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Congress Abstracts: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 44, pt 3 & 4.

11th World Congress of IASSID, New Millennium Research to Practice. Seattle, USA

Administrative Posts

Karen is currently coordinator of the module Learning Difficulties which occurs in the second year of the Speech & Language Therapy degree course. She is also the lead for development of an assistive communication resource as part of the Norwich Electronic Assistive Technology centre in the school.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or