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Dr Martin McPhillips

Photo of Martin McPhillips




Room 02.504, David Keir Building
School of Psychology
Queen's University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK


+44 (0)28 9097 4366


I completed a B.Sc. (Hons) degree in psychology at Queen's University, Belfast (1975-1979), and then I trained as teacher for children with special needs (PGCE) at Edge Hill College of Higher Education, England (1980-1981).  I worked as a teacher of children and adults with special needs for many years in various educational settings in England.

I returned to Belfast in 1995 to work as a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology, Queen’s University, where I completed a Ph.D. (1999-2003) on ‘The Role of Primary Reflexes in Reading Delay’.  I joined the academic staff in 2005.

School of Psychology Administrative Roles

  • Second Year Tutor
  • Module Co-ordinator PSY3066 Developmental Disorders (Cognitive)
  • Module Co-ordinator PSY7049 Atypical Patterns of Child Development
  • Module Co-ordinator PSY7050 Assessment and Intervention


PSY1002 Introductory Psychology 2

PSY2052 Developmental and Individual Differences

PSY3066 Developmental Disorders (Cognitive)

PSY7049 Atypical Patterns of Child Development

PSY7050 Assessment and Intervention


Member of the Cognition, Development and Education Research Cluster

The motor development of young children

Movement intervention programmes for children with developmental difficulties

The major focus of this research is on the motor development of children, and it has two complementary strands. The ‘pure’ strand concerns the constraints imposed on motor development by the persistence of a fetal/neonatal reflex system, known as the primary reflex system, beyond the first year of life. The ‘applied’ strand focuses on the development of movement interventions to overcome or reduce the disturbances which result from primary reflex persistence. One of the major outcomes of the research has been the development of a movement intervention programme, known as Primary Movement, which is now used in more than 1,000 schools in the UK and Ireland.


While the ‘applied’ work is usually field based and is conducted in association with local schools, the ‘pure’ work is mostly laboratory based using technologies such as Balancemaster®, Polhemus® and Qualisys® systems.


Selected Publications

Livingstone, N. & McPhillips, M. (2011). Motor skill deficits in children with partial hearing. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 53, 836-842.

McPhillips, M. & Jordan-Black, J. (2009). The effect of month of birth on the attainments of primary and secondary school pupils. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 419-438.

McPhillips, M. & Jordan-Black, J. (2007). Primary reflex persistence in children with reading difficulties (dyslexia): A cross-sectional study. Neuropsychologia, 45, 748-754.

McPhillips, M. & Jordan-Black, J. (2007). The effect of social disadvantage on motor development in young children: a comparative study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48, 1214-1222.

McPhillips, M., Sheehy, N. (2004). Prevalence of persistent primary reflexes and motor problems in children with reading difficulties. Dyslexia, 10, 316-338.

McPhillips, M. (2001). The role of persistent primary-reflexes in reading delay. Dyslexia Review, 13, 4-7.

McPhillips, M., Hepper, P.G., Mulhern, G. (2000). Effects of replicating primary-reflex movements on specific reading difficulties in children. Lancet, 355, 537-541.

Selected Funding

The research has been supported by the Department of Education, N. Ireland and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).