Current Projects

Parental stress and children with autism spectrum disorder: An exploration of protective and resilience factors (Parental Stress project)

Parents of children with ASD consistently report higher levels of parental stress when compared to any other group of parents. Rooted in positive psychology and strengths-based philosophies, this project aims to identify and understand the strengths and protective/resilience factors that exist within families of children with ASD that could be used to support successful prevention and management of parental stress. Using an exploratory sequential mixed methods design, scoping review, semi-structured interview, and survey/questionnaire methods will be used in a cumulative manner so that each phase builds upon the previous findings.

Endometriosis Project

Endometriosis is a chronic uterine condition in which the presence of tissue normally appearing within the uterus, which is shed every month during menstruation, is accumulated outside the uterus, resulting in areas of inflammation, scarring of various organs in the body, and potentially resulting in pain, subfertility, and pelvic mass growths. Endometriosis affects individuals of child-bearing ages, including students. Having endometriosis can influence students' school performance and attendance. The proposed dissertation will be divided into three studies, which aim to (1) investigate the available literature addressing school supports that are currently being implemented to support the learning of individuals living with chronic pain, (2) to understand the needs of students living with endometriosis within educational settings to create a guide for teachers and health professionals on how best to support these students within the learning environment through online questionnaires, and (3) to implement and evaluate the proposed school supports within an education setting for students with endometriosis. Study 1 will consist of a scoping review by investigating the available literature in online databases on in-school supports (i.e., services, resources, and practices available in schools) for students with chronic pain. Study 2 will consist of distributing an adapted version of the Endometriosis Impact Questionnaire and a background questionnaire to students with endometriosis. Open-ended questions and a list of in-school supports will also be included in the questionnaire. Based on the results from Study 2 and existing guidelines for working with students with chronic illnesses such as asthma and cancer, guidelines for working with students with endometriosis will be developed. Study 3 will consist of implementing the guidelines from Study 2 with students with endometriosis. Implementing in-school supports for students with endometriosis could improve their wellbeing and academic learning.

Evaluation of a Novel Expressive Writing Intervention (Expressive Writing Project)

In collaboration with Dr. Danielle Groleau and her research team, the present study seeks to ascertain the effectiveness and process of a novel expressive writing intervention. The intervention is implemented with adolescents in a school setting, with the goal of promoting student’s mental health. Specifically, the intervention aims to improve self-esteem, self-expression, and self-confidence through writing and illustrations, all the while encouraging children to find and share their voice with others.  The mixed-methods design used to evaluate this intervention includes:

  1. Quantitative mental health outcome data collected at pre-test and post-test to ascertain the impact of the intervention

  2. Qualitative observation of the intervention process and qualitative interviews post-test with students to document the intervention process and explain the mental health outcomes.

Evaluation of the Clinical Consultation Model (CCM) for School-Aged Children with Autism or Intellectual Disabilities (CCM Project)

Dr. Sladeczek and members of her research team are leading an evaluation study of the Clinical Consultation Model (CCM) offered by a community service for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities (ID) and/or autism spectrum disorders (ASD).   

 

The Clinical Consultation Model (CCM) is an intervention program delivered at a community service to school-aged children with intellectual disabilities and/or autism spectrum disorders, aged 6-18 years.  The CCM is based on Behavioural Consultation / Conjoint Behavioural Consultation approaches that have received empirical support with diverse populations because of their documented efficacy and efficiency (Sheridan & Colton, 1994; Sheridan, Richards & Smoot, 2000; Sheridan, Clarke, Marti, Burt, & Rohlk, 2005).   

 

The primary objective of this research is to evaluate the effectiveness of the Clinical Consultation Model for the children and adolescents of the community service.  The following will be evaluated:

  • The proportion of goals attained across all children exposed to a 52-week cycle of the treatment.

  • The average length of time required to master the intervention plan.

  • The number of hours needed to master the anticipated goal(s) in the intervention plan along six goal domains: (1) social skills; (2) maladaptive behavior; (3) cognition; (4) self-help; (5) motor; (6) communication.

  • The effectiveness of parents and therapists as change agents.

  • Parents’ perception of and satisfaction with the treatment and services.

  • Parents’ perceptions of themselves as change agents.

  • In addition to the above measures, data will be collected on the number of clients discharged due to attrition.

Transition to School for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Policy Implications, Family Perceptions, and Intervention Efficacy (Transition to School Project)

Starting school is one of the most significant early transitions in a child’s life. Although important, merely 50% of students achieve successful school transition, with the remaining children achieving moderate to poor levels of success. Children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are in transition often experience difficulties that greatly surpass those experienced by typically developing children.  Given the recent increase in prevalence in ASD and the global attention transition to school (TTS) has recently been given, this research program will explore issues related to TTS for children with ASDs and their families.  

 

More specifically, this study aims to implement and evaluate the effectiveness of a TTS intervention for children with ASDs and their families.  To meet this objective this program of research is separated into 3 phases.  Phase 1 will investigate and describe TTS practices for children with ASDs and their families in Canada via a TTS survey completed by preschool service providers.  Phase 2 will investigate what child and family characteristics are correlated to caregiver perceptions of the TTS for children with ASD.  Phases 1 and 2 will set the stage for the eventual implementation and evaluation of a TTS intervention for children with ASDs preparing to make the transition to kindergarten in Phase 3.  

 

Is your child preparing to make the transition to kindergarten next Fall? Visit our participation page to learn more about how your family can take part in this research study.

Bridging the gap between research on cognitive deficits, learning disabilities, and science education to improve the engagement and achievement of students with learning disabilities in science (STEM Project)

The field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has been growing with the advances of the 21st century. Recently, many efforts have been made to increase diversity in the field yet, there has been little effort to increase inclusion of people with learning disabilities. The literature concerning difficulties in science and learning disabilities focuses on instructional support. Furthermore, research demonstrates that emotion is closely linked with cognition and plays a role in academic performance. In spite of this research, there is a gap in the literature examining the relationship between science anxiety, cognitive processing, and science achievement among students with learning disabilities.

 

This project aims to fill in the gaps in the literature pertaining to science learning for students with learning disabilities. Specifically, we aim to:

  • Identify specific learning disabilities that describes science learning problems

  • Explore the underlying deficits in cognitive processing related to science learning problems

  • Examine the relationship between emotional issues (e.g., science anxiety) and the influence on cognitive processes

  • Formulate recommendations for individuals with learning disabilities to enhance engagement and achievement in science.
     

Measures of cognitive processes, psychophysiological, emotions and attitudes towards science will be used to assess cognitive deficits and emotional issues and how they influence science performance for individuals with learning disabilities.

Countering religious extremism through education in multicultural Canada

Religious extremism in the form of violence is becoming an increasing threat to global security.  Presently, the radicalization of youth in Canada is a largely ignored issue that places great risk to Canadian peace and security. Education systems have a central role in socializing Canadian youth and in the development of personal and group identities. As such, these systems may be key in the promotion of a resilient and peaceful society.  A phenomenological approach will be taken to explore perspectives and concerns of students, parents, and teachers regarding religious extremism.  Data will be collected through the following means: focus group discussions, questionnaires, interviews, and workshops.  Furthermore, this work will culminate in the development of hands-on tools to support educators in discussing controversial issues, such as religious extremism, with their students.

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