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Did you ever think adolescents with FASD or PAE could practice social and cognitive skills in a virtual environment?

Rianne Spaans is a third-year doctoral student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Alberta thought so! Rianne, under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline Pei and in collaboration with the “programming geniuses” at Technology in Education Specialization in the faculty of education at the University of Alberta are working to develop and test the effectiveness of a virtual environment intervention that targets social and cognitive skills for adolescents aged 13-18  with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) or prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE).

This unique and engaging intervention takes place in a virtual environment, or what Rianne calls a “fancy video game.” The style of the game is mission impossible, where players interact online to solve the crime. Different social and cognitive skills are targeted by the types of games played or tasks completed. Such tasks progress in difficulty, starting off easy and becoming more difficult as the game continues.

Rianne explained one of the games “Car Thief,” that takes place in a chop shop where a team of 5 players works together to catch the bad guy that steals cars. The evidence they find in this particular game takes players through different scenarios such as avoiding guard dogs, disarming cameras and examining documents to find relevant names as clues to solve the case.

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Image from Virtual Environment “Car Thief” game, players distracting guard dogs.

Teams of players that work well together catch the bad guy. However, this is not without working on skills such as emotional regulation or attention span. Capture10.pngSome games, for example, are designed to induce frustration or distract players from the task at hand by decoys depending on how the team of players works together.
There are also features like a  “chill out space” where if players do become frustrated they can take a break.

To top it all off, this virtual environment was entirely developed from scratch, from the storyline and characters to the game programming!

Rianne pointed out that there is a need for interventions that engage adolescents stating “It is understandable why they [adolescents] are not wanting to stay in some intervention programs… most programs are boring.” They are just simply not targeting adolescents interests. Rianne is hoping that this project will expand the kinds of interventions out there for adolescents to include virtual environments. As well as to “jump start the development of interventions that are fun and engaging.”

The study discussed in this blog is titled “Social Skills Intervention for Adolescents: the use of a virtual environment” and is currently  adolescents aged 13 up to 18 years old with a diagnosis of FASD or PAE (suspected FASD) recruiting out of the Univeristy of Alberta located in Edmonton.

If you would like more information or to participate in this study, please contact Rianne Spaans at spaans@ualberta.ca

 

See below for more images from the virtual environment intervention!

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Participants wanted for Canadian FASD Media Coverage Study! Please see the below for study information:

Participants wanted for a group interview study about FASD!
We want to talk to you about your experiences with FASD. In particular, we want to hear your thoughts and feelings about examples of Canadian FASD media coverage, to think about how to more effectively communicate information about FASD. Your perspective will be invaluable in helping us to better understand FASD, and the way it is discussed in the public sphere.
Who can participate?
We want to include key stakeholders, like: 1) adults with FASD; 2) parents of and caregivers for people with FASD; 3) healthcare professionals with experience diagnosing or caring for patients with FASD; and 4) FASD communicators (e.g., journalists, public health officials).
What does the study look like?
This study will involve participation in a 90-minute group interview in English. Each interview will include only one stakeholder group at a time (e.g., only adults with FASD, only parents). You will be compensated for your time.
How can I get involved?
If you feel you match the above criteria, please send an email to: john.aspler@ircm.qc.ca.
We will send you a brief online questionnaire to fill out, as well as the informed consent
document for you to look over when deciding whether or not to participate. Sending us an email does not mean you have agreed to participate, and you can choose to stop at any time.
For more information or if you have any questions, please contact John Aspler at:
john.aspler@ircm.qc.ca, or at (514) 987-5500 (extension 3356).

Study Title: Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the Canadian print news media: A study of media discourse and key stakeholder perspectives
This study is conducted by an interdisciplinary team of bioethicists and scientists:
John Aspler, BSc, Doctoral candidate, Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM).
Eric Racine, PhD, Director of the Neuroethics Research Unit, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), 110 avenue des Pins Ouest, Montréal QC H2W 1R7, Tel.: 514 987-5723, email: eric.racine@ircm.qc.ca.
James Reynolds, PhD, Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queens University.

If you would like to read our previous blog post on FASD and Media Click here!

news

The latest edition of the iNAT FASD Intervention Newsletter is now available!

This season’s newsletter includes a spotlight on an Ontario school with an FASD-specific program, information about Dr. Michelle Stewart, (CanFASD’s Strategic Lead for Justice Interventions), and a sneak peak of findings from our research examining caregiver needs and stress.

You can read a copy of the newsletter here and subscribe to receive future editions.

A great resource for educators working with students with FASD! See the text below from the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium:

Together, the Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium and the Learning Network, in partnership with Dr. Jacqueline Pei, her team and Alberta Education,  are pleased to provide an excellent resource to support educators working with students with FASD…

Professionals without Parachutes: Supporting Students with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

This resource includes videos and accompanying learning guides designed for use by professional learning communities, learning coaches and teacher leaders or as a self-paced study.

Description:

Understanding medical and disability implications of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is essential for getting to know students with FASD, planning effective instruction and providing the right level of classroom support.

Developed by Dr. Jacqueline Pei and her colleagues, Stephanie Hayes and Alethea Heudes. This PD resource provides an explanation of FASD, its effect on the brain and the impact it can have on student learning, social/emotional behaviour and the classroom environment. Strategies for designing classroom instruction and routines to support students with FASD are also highlighted.

Each of the videos and accompanying learning guides are organized as modules and focus on the following:

Module One: Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and the Developing Brain

Module Two: Brain Structure Versus Brain Function

Module Three: The Brain and Emotional Regulation

Link to the resources:  http://www.engagingalllearners.ca/il/supporting-students-with-fasd/

 

KnowFASD

After what seems like far too long, KnowFASD is back in operation! To those of you who use the site regularly and have been waiting for its return, thank you for your patience.

If you have never visited the site, please feel free to drop by and check it out! Take a browse through the interactive home page and learn more/find help on the site’s wiki.

Our goal with KnowFASD is to provide a comprehensive site where viewers can learn about the neurobehavioural deficits associated with FASD throughout the lifespan and link to intervention options.

The main homepage of the website is an interactive interface where viewers can scroll through the lifespan of individuals with FASD, with neurobehavioural issues at each developmental stage presented as they may appear in day-to-day life. By clicking on a neurobehavioural issue, viewers are directed to a “wiki” (which works in a similar fashion to Wikipedia) housing information from current research on the neurobehavioural issue at hand. Each wiki page discusses a specific neurobehavioural issue: how it presents, potential causes, and potential consequences. At the bottom of each page, a link is provided to topic-specific intervention options.

Please feel free to visit the site, pass it along, and give us your feedback or suggestions. Check back often as we continue to upload information, links, and resources.

Visit KnowFASD

Image source: http://mashable.com/2012/05/15/donors-choose-video/

 

With school starting up across the country, we’ve got academics on the brain.

Children and youth with FASD often have difficulty with academic tasks such as math, reading, spelling, and motor based tasks like writing and even physical education. These challenges, along with widespread attention and hyperactivity difficulties,  can make school a tough place for kids with FASD.

Did you know:

Through CanFASD, we have created a website called “KnowFASD“. The website provides information on neurobehavioural difficulties associated with FASD across the lifespan and links to our FASD “wiki” housing information  and offering intervention options on each specific neurobehavioural difficulty.

Within the wiki, there is a page describing the  academic difficulties faced by individuals with FASD (as seen in research) as well as a page of resources and links for academic intervention options– all aimed at helping students with FASD who are having trouble in class.

 

 

Some more great tips from the folks at Edmonton Fetal Alcohol Network for going back to school:

back2schooltips

knowfasd

We recently featured our newest project, KnowFASD, in the latest edition of our iNAT newsletter. For those of you who have not yet subscribed to the iNAT newsletter, here is some information about KnowFASD:

Our goal with KnowFASD is to provide a comprehensive site where viewers can learn about the neurobehavioural deficits associated with FASD throughout the lifespan and link to intervention options.

The main homepage of the website is an interactive interface where viewers can scroll through the lifespan of individuals with FASD, with neurobehavioural issues at each developmental stage presented as they may appear in day-to-day life. By clicking on a neurobehavioural issue, viewers are directed to a “wiki” (which works in a similar fashion to Wikipedia) housing information from current research on the neurobehavioural issue at hand. Each wiki page discusses a specific neurobehavioural issue: how it presents, potential causes, and potential consequences. At the bottom of each page, a link is provided to topic-specific intervention options.

Please feel free to visit the site, pass it along, and give us your feedback or suggestions. Check back often as we continue to categorize and upload information.

Visit KnowFASD

Now that school has been back in for a month, kids are settling into routine and teachers have a clearer idea of where their needs lie. A teacher friend of mine was sharing her experience with me. She said that by this time of year she will usually have been able to spend one on one time with most of the kids to get a better idea of where they are at academically. This year in particular, almost half of her kids are below grade level in reading. A few of them are coded (i.e. they have a diagnosis of one thing or another and receive support) and a handful of them have behaviour difficulties and probably SHOULD be coded, but aren’t. She was concerned about the rest of  the year and wished she had more resources and supports at her disposal.

So after that conversation, I went home and started writing this blog post. Maybe there are some teachers out there that have a child or 2 with FASD in their classrooms and are struggling to find ways to support that child throughout the year. I thought I would put together a list of some of the teacher focused, academic based resources I’ve come across in the last year or so since this blog started. Of course, not everything works for every child, but this might be a good place to start!

If you are a teacher or you happen to know a teacher, please pass this along. Maybe there is something in these resources that all teachers can benefit from- even those who do not teach a child with FASD.

POPFASD:
“POPFASD” is a fantastic resource for everything this post represents. It is a resource program from the BC Ministry of Education, aimed at educators working with students with FASD. Their wonderful collection of resources includes teacher resources, print resources, downloadable resources, and eLearning videos, all about FASD, all for educators.

Alberta Education Teacher Resources:
“Alberta Education” is the government of Alberta’s Ministry of Education, providing support to those involved with the school system from early education to grade 12. Their FASD teacher resources page contains some great publications to help teachers understand and teach students with FASD and other special needs.

Toolbox Parenting: Tips for Tough Kids:
Toolbox parenting is an informational site for families of individuals with special needs. Have a look around their site map. They provide some school based  ideas and resources (among other things), such as a “care kit” to educate others about the child’s needs, a “schools and special education guide” to aid parents with the education process, a “schools” section with some great information and suggestions for those involved in the child’s education.

Do2Learn Academics:
“Do2Learn” provides evidence based learning strategies for children with disorders that affect their learning and functioning. Their academics section has some great ideas for fine motor development, language development, visual discrimination, literacy, mathematics, learning strategies, and a “teacher toolbox” section.

Great Schools:
“Great schools” is a non-profit organization from the United States whose goal is to help parents support their child’s education. We liked their 8 summer reading activities for kids with learning disabilities– These can be done all year, not just in the summer!

Food for Thought:

Planning for school is great, but it’s also important to think ahead to the future. The folks at Online Education Database sent us this great list of 21 Critical Job Skills You Should Instil in Your Kid

To our readers:
Please feel free to add to this list by posting a comment or emailing us! inat@ualberta.ca

Given that individuals with FASD tend to have academic difficulties (studies have found that reading, spelling, and math are common areas of impairment1,2), why not continue academic practice throughout the summer to ease the transition back into school?

“Great Schools” has put together a list of creative activities for practising reading.

For other ideas and resources for academic practice throughout the summer, see Do2Learn’s academic section in our previous post: “A Great Online Resource for Kids with Special Needs”

References:
1.         Streissguth AP, Aase J, Clarren S, Randels SP, LaDue R, Smith DF. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in adolescents and adults. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 1991;265:1961-1967.
2.         Mattson S, Crocker N, Nguyen T. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: neuropsychological and behavioral features. Neuropsychology Review. 2011;21:81-101.

 

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