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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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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.

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

Print

 

Keewatin Public School in Kenora, Ontario will soon introduce a program aimed specifically at FASD. The “Transitions North” program follows 2 already established FASD programs in Dryden and Sioux Lookout through the Keewatin Patricia District School Board.

Elements of the program include staff trained by FASD experts as well as a warm classroom environment with accommodations for the sensory needs of students, such as minimal distractions and sensory materials available for use.

To read about the Transitions North program (along with related articles on the implementation and success of the program in other cities in Ontario) read “FASD Program Coming to Keewatin Public School” through Kenora Online.

The Keewatin Patricia District school board was also previously involved with the “Eliminating Barriers Building Bridges” regional FASD research project, in which agencies sought to increase placement stability and improve outcomes for kids with FASD through enhanced support and understanding of FASD for teachers and caregivers.

To read more about the previous “Eliminating Barriers Building Bridges” program, click here. To read the final evaluation of the program, click here.

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

Finding Hope,” A site from the province of BC about the struggles, successes, programs and lives of those affected by FASD, is well worth a look!

The full documentary on the Finding Hope website is a wonderfully touching and informative resource highlighting the lives of several individuals with FASD and their families interspersed with commentary from professionals in the field.

The documentary begins with a look at the lives of several families and their children who are affected by FASD. Interviews with the families and the children themselves provide great insight into what it’s like to live with FASD and raise a child with FASD. The videos contain discussion with professionals in the field regarding diagnosis, physical and neurological effects, cognitive and behavioural issues, prevention, intervention, and the importance of recognizing that the effects of FASD are due to a brain injury rather than wilful choices.

Several interventions are highlighted in the documentary:

Whitecrow Village:

The  camp (L.I.F.E sessions) experience at Whitecrow Village is featured. The camp reinforces the concepts of structure, predictability/consistency, and respect through adapted activities for children with team leaders who have FASD themselves. These activities run concurrently with education sessions for adults. Children, families, and Whitecrow Village staff work and learn together to create a sense of community.

Homeschooling:

One family in the documentary has created a homeschool of their own, hiring teachers to work with the children. They stress the importance of short segments of learning with active breaks and a calm predictable environment.

FASTrack Program:

The FASTrack program at Kennedy Trail Elementary School in Surrey BC is a program with strategies specific to FASD. The program advocates for the importance of communication between the home and school and the importance of translating to other schools the knowledge of what works in this program.

YWCA/Prevention Programs:

The YWCA provides programs to help women make good choices, which is essential in the prevention of FASD and the good parenting practices needed for mothers of children that are already affected

Other highlighted interventions are the ever-important dedicated teachers’ assistants, and provincial programs incorporating key workers  and respite workers who help parents with coping and communication strategies.

On the finding hope website, there is also a compilation of videos on a number of FASD related topics:

  • About FASD
  • Prevention
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Resources for Parents
  • Resources for Educators

Each section contains videos, an overview, links to sites relevant to the topic, and some great downloads with resources and tips.

To our readers:

The documentary concludes with messages of hope from the families and professionals in the video.
Where do you find hope?
Are there any specific interventions or people that have given you hope?

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