Research Seminar: Dr Kate Woodcock

Date: 24 August 2016

Time: 12:00 - 13:00

Location: Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Computing, Queen Mother Building

Host: Professor Annalu Waller

We are very pleased to announce this forthcoming seminar with Dr Kate Woodcock who is invited as a guest of the Dundee AAC Research Group.

Title: Helping children with neurodevelopmental disorders to show fewer temper outbursts: developing parent training and video games using human centred design

Abstract: Most children show quite a few temper outbursts (tantrums) and can be a bit aggressive when they are in their toddler and preschool years. These behaviours are normal but usually fade out shortly after children start school. However, some children, particularly those with disorders that affect brain development, can continue having difficulties with these behaviours throughout their lives.

Kate’s work with children with a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) suggests that one important route to atypical temper outbursts is via deficits in children’s cognitive ability to think about things flexibly, an ability known as task switching. These cognitive deficits appear to underpin children’s poor ability to deal with changes to their routines, plans or expectations. Thus, temper outbursts are commonly triggered by such unexpected changes. There is now growing evidence that temper outbursts can be underpinned by the same pathway in children with other neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, fragile X syndrome and intellectual disability.

Kate will introduce the multi-level evidence that supports the task switching – unexpected change pathway to temper outbursts and discuss the development of intervention strategies addressing this pathway.A web-based parent training programme was developed to teach a strategy – designed using the principles of associative learning – to make changes to routines or plans more predictable for children. Focus groups and iterative feedback from caregivers on web-based resources informed the development.A prototype video game was designed to train children’s task switching. The development was informed by preference gathering and play testing with children with PWS, and by a systematic analysis of gameplay in commercial video games that have serendipitous positive effects on task switching. Initial results from ongoing evaluations of these intervention approaches will be discussed.

Bio: Dr Kate Woodcock is a Lecturer in Psychology at Queen's University Belfast. Her research focuses on children who face difficulties because of their disruptive behaviours. Her work aims to examine the many factors that can influence children's disruptive behaviours, including genes, brain functioning, thoughts (cognitions) and multiple aspects of children's surroundings. Kate is particularly interested in how different types of factors interact with each other to affect children's behaviour and how to use our knowledge of these interactions to develop and test strategies that will be beneficial for children and their families. Since disruptive behaviour is particularly common in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, much of Kate's research involves children with such disorders. Kate carried out her PhD research at the University of Birmingham and two years of her Postdoctoral Research at Peking University, China.


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