Birkbeck, University of London

We contributed £250,000 to the development of the Wohl Wolfson ToddlerLab at Birkbeck, University of London. The world-first ToddlerLab is a dedicated five-storey research facility developed for studying toddler and preschool development in naturalistic environments. Alongside the study of typical development, the ToddlerLab also identifies atypical developmental trajectories and focuses research on understanding the basis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Foundation recognises that academic research is crucial in understanding disabilities and therefore in supporting those with disabilities and long-term health conditions. This project represents step changes in how Autism is understood and supported using state-of-the-art technology and research. The funding for the project has supported the construction phase. Although disrupted by COVID-related challenges, the new facility was completed and operational in 2021, with data collection starting in the ToddlerLab with parents and children on-site. To see the Toddlerlab and hear about its importance, click here.

Using the latest wireless technologies, the ToddlerLab will enable the advanced scientific study of brain development for children from 18 months to three or four years in an environment simulating familiar surroundings for toddlers. The new ToddlerLab will build on discoveries made at Birkbeck’s BabyLab, which has led to breakthroughs in the understanding of babies’ brain development but its facilities are less well suited to studying toddlers, who require more space as they carry out various daily activities, including walking and playing. It is hoped that the ToddlerLab will lead to breakthroughs in the understanding of young children’s brain development so that conditions can be identified and addressed earlier.

"There is no cure for neurodevelopmental conditions like autism but with the right interventions, children with these conditions can learn to cope with them and live happier lives. By furthering our understanding of these conditions, the Wohl Wolfson ToddlerLab will help children around the world to do just that.”
Anneka Hendrick, Birkbeck, University of London

Our support has specifically enabled the creation of the HomeLab in the Wohl Wolfson ToddlerLab. This cutting edge research environment is a vital part of the new research facility that will help Birkbeck researchers to reach more infants than ever before, not only through research studies themselves but through the impact of these studies, which are hoped one day, to be felt on a global scale.

Moving forward, we hope to remain involved in the ToddlerLab through the wider care sector with opportunities for involvement in research for staff, service users and their families which we have helped to develop over the last three years.