Personal profile

Research interests

Dr David Haines’s research interests focus on occupational therapy with people with intellectual disabilities (learning disabilities) and in particular those with complex needs, including profound intellectual and multiple disabilities. He is interested in how we can support and enable people with intellectual disabilities to engage in occupations/ activities and how occupational justice can be promoted, in particular through improving the quality of support provided to individuals.

David is currently leading a series of action research projects in collaboration with occupational therapists in Kent Community Health Foundation NHS Trust.  They are developing a clinical reasoning/ thinking tool to be used by occupational therapists to think through how best to work with the support networks of people with intellectual disabilities when seeking to get recommendations adopted to improve the quality of support provided. Future projects will validate and evaluate the initial version of this tool.

With a strong grounding in qualitative research, Dr Haines is particularly interested in action research, ethnographic and case study methodologies, narrative research and in finding ethical means of involving those who may not have capacity as research participants in order that their needs may be researched and their support improved.

Supervisory Interests

David’s PhD supervisory interests include occupational therapy and occupational science, particularly (though not exclusively) in relation to people with intellectual (learning) disabilities.  He is also interested in research related to ensuring high quality support and care of people with severe and profound intellectual disabilities and others with complex and high support needs. 

His primary expertise is in qualitative research with particular interests in action research and case study and ethnographic methodologies.  If relevant to his research interests and expertise, he would be very interested in supporting those wishing to undertake a PhD at Brighton with development of their research proposal.

David is exploring the potential of a PhD Studentship to take forward the evaluation of the clinical reasoning tool currently being developed (see Research Interests above).

David is currently supervising the following PhD students:

Esther Dark: More than calories? Exploring the meaning of food and eating for individuals with lived experience of anorexia. 

Elspeth Clark: Belonging and people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities

Denise Harris: Supervision practices in an English NHS organisation: Complexity and Paradox

He is also supporting Audrey Yong's PhD by publication related to home environment design for people with autism and intellectual disabilities.

Scholarly biography

In 1992, David began working with adults with learning disabilities in North London, supporting people with moderate, severe and profound learning disabilities to make the transition from long-stay institutions to living in 'ordinary houses in ordinary streets'. This was an exciting time to begin a career in this field, being part of a then still relatively new idea of 'care in the community' and working for an organisation that actively sought staff without a history of working in former institutions and who might support people in different and more empowering ways.

The experiences he had enabling people to engage in activity and to build relationships at home and in their local community led to a chance meeting with a Brighton student that made him aware of the existence of occupational therapy and its potential close connection with the work he had been doing as a support worker.  He immediately applied for the University of Brighton PgDip Occupational Therapy course in Eastbourne.

David worked as an occupational therapist with people with learning disabilities for nine years, based in community teams in Sussex, Surrey and the London Borough of Wandsworth and then in the therapy team at St John's College in Brighton. 

He joined the University of Brighton School of Sport and Health Sciences (then School of Health Professions) as a Senior Lecturer in 2006 and became the Course Leader of the part-time BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy in 2011, leading this course and the Occupational Therapy Degree Apprenticeship until 2021. He teaches across the Occupational Therapy courses, became Principal Lecturer in 2017 and from 2017-19 took on the role of joint Apprenticeships Lead for the School.  He is now joint Subject Lead for Health and Rehabilitation.

For four years, David was on the National Executive Committee of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section – People with Learning Disabilities, including a period as Research and Development and Education Lead.  During this time, he completed a research study commissioned by the Royal College with Alison Lillywhite, which explored occupational therapy and people with learning disabilities.  This reawakened his interest in research and how this might improve the support provided to people with learning disabilities. 

In 2015, he completed a PhD at University of Brighton in which he explored the ways an occupational therapist supported people with profound and multiple learning disabilities to engage in their occupations at home. 

Lillywhite A and Haines D (2010) Occupational therapy and people with learning disabilities: findings from a research study. London: College of Occupational therapists

Lillywhite, A and Haines, D (2010) Occupational therapy and people with learning disabilities, London: College of Occupational Therapists.

Bashton D, Mandy A, Haines D, and Cameron J (2012) Comparison of activities of daily living in two different one arm drive wheelchairs: a controlled trial. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 7 (1) 75-81

Boyle P, Haines D, Lovelock L, Innes K (2014) Home safety for children with autistic spectrum disorder: local authority occupational therapy intervention. British Journal of Occupational Therapy 77(5) 243-50

Haines, D (2015) Occupational therapy supporting people with profound intellectual disabilities to engage in occupation at home. Thesis, University of Brighton.

Haines D, Brown A, (2017) Health Professionals working effectively with support workers to enhance the quality of support for adults with intellectual disabilities: A meta-ethnography.  Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities 31(2) 200-212.

Haines, D (2017) Ethical considerations in qualitative case study research recruiting participants with profound intellectual disabilities. Research Ethics Review 13 (3-4) 219-322

Harland A, Swarbrick C, Haines D (2017) The impact of sensory integration groups on the participation of children and young people with learning disabilities: perceptions of therapists and teaching staff. Brighton Journal of Research in Health Sciences, 3 (1)

Haines, D, Wright, J & Comerasamy, H (2018) Occupational Therapy Empowering Support Workers to Change How They Support People with Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities to Engage in Activity. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities 15(4) 295-306

Morrison, S, Barrett, L & Haines, D (2019) Foot‐care needs for children and young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. British Journal of Learning Disabilities 48(1) 4-9

Justice, H, Haines, D, Wright, J (2021) Occupational therapy for adults with intellectual disabilities and sensory processing challenges: Exploring practice within acute assessment and treatment units. Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy. 

Haines, D, Wright, J (2021) Thinking in stories: Narrative reasoning of an occupational therapist supporting people with profound intellectual disabilities' engagement in occupation. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 1-20

Approach to teaching

Problem-based learning is the approach to learning and teaching that is embedded across the occupational therapy programmes and some other courses at University of Brighton and this is underpinned by a clear pedagogy, including the work of former colleague Professor Gaynor Sadlo.

Teaching on our courses in this way is a perfect fit with the philosophy of the occupational therapy profession itself and gives David much the same satisfaction that he gained from working as an occupational therapist in practice. He really enjoys the highly interactive and very student-centred problem-based method and the way it allows him to work alongside students in small groups, exploring problems together and learning from each other. It is heartening to see students not only increasing subject knowledge, but also developing their critical reasoning, team working and independent learning skills.

Knowledge exchange

In June 2018 David began a project with the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section - People with Learning Disabilities (RCOT-SSPLD).  An Evaluation Survey was used to explore occupational therapists’ work with adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities and in particular, their use of "sensory activity”.  The findings informed two subsequent MSc Occupational Therapy student research projects and dissemination of the findings from the survey has highlighted occupational therapists’ keenness to develop and share resources related to this aspect of their work.  David is now working with colleagues from the RCOT-SSPLD PMLD Forum to set up a project placement in 2022-23 academic year in which two occupational therapy students will be supported to develop a resource-sharing website to be used by occupational therapists nationally.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Occupational therapy supporting people with profound intellectual disabilities to engage in occupation at home, University of Brighton

9 Sept 200912 Oct 2015

Award Date: 12 Oct 2015


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