New therapeutic video game to improve outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental challenges

An innovative team of Canadian partners have come together bridging academic university, private industry, and community health leadership for child brain health, bringing a novel therapeutic video game to children and families. Led by Dr. Sarah Macoun from the University of Victoria, the partnership showcases innovative capabilities within a large multi-site clinical research study, to explore how the Dino Island therapeutic video game can improve attention, working memory, and executive function in children with neurodevelopment disabilities.

The partners include the University of Victoria, The Uncomplicated Family (TUF, Calgary), HealthTech Connex's Centre for Neurological Studies and the NeuroCatch Platform (Surrey), the Child Development Foundation of BC (Surrey), and Woodview Autism and Mental Health Services (Ontario). This partnership initiative emerged from Surrey's Health and Technology District and is a product of decades of leading-edge research started by Dr. Catherine Mateer and Dr. Kimberly Kerns from the University of Victoria. It represents a major milestone in translating leading research into health technology benefits for Canadians and children around the globe.

Through a combination of research, clinical studies, innovation, and clinical expertise, the multi-year partnership enables collaborators to offer a video-game based treatment program for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Their goal is to help children with special needs reach their potential through the development and use of novel, evidence-based innovations, to improve neuro-behavioural outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental challenges.

The therapeutic video game is called Dino Island (pictured above), a cognitive intervention program rooted in neuroscience and is used to help treat neurodevelopmental disabilities using innovation translated from the Kids Brain Health Network. As a "serious game," Dino Island takes advantage of the popularity of video games, particularly in growing pandemic times, to support healthy brain development in children. The Dino Island Intervention Program consists of five serious video games, each designed to deliver therapeutic benefits while it looks and feels like a video game.

Dino Island demonstrates what is possible when Canadian researchers, health professionals, technological innovators, and our funding partners work together to meet a vital need. Between seven and 14 per cent of children live with developmental disorders and cognitive challenges. We've created a treatment program that kids are willing to give the time required to make it effective, doesn't require a clinical expert to deliver it, and can be used anywhere that an online video game can be used."

Dr. Sarah Macoun, Principal Investigator, Dino Island Intervention Program, University of Victoria

Researchers at University of Victoria developed Dino Island as a cognitive intervention program for attention and executive functioning impairments, specifically designed for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, which combines the appeal of tablet-based gaming with the effectiveness of an in-person, interventionist-child structure. Dino Island was developed with the specific goals of being effective, affordable, and accessible.

"With Dino Island, our partners and TUF are working to transform the entertainment power of video games into a health intervention that children enjoy, parents can feel good about, and our researchers and clinicians can use to offer affordable, accessible treatment options at home, at school, or in the community," explains Robyn Woods, CEO & Founder at TUF.

Dr. Brian Katz, a Registered Psychologist and the Vice President of Child and Youth Services at The Centre for Child Development noted, "Our goal, through this unique partnership, is to help improve outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental challenges by pairing research and innovation. Through groundbreaking programs like Dino Island, The Centre is able to bring cutting edge innovations to our clients which helps us achieve our mission of helping children with special needs reach their potential."

Clinicians, family supports, educational assistants, and all caregivers of children living with developmental disorders and cognitive challenges are invited to explore the Dino Island Intervention Program at: http://uvicdinoisland.cogtrain.ca

The University of Victoria is currently welcoming registrations for children that will benefit from treatment to improve their attention and executive function, and will be supported by a caregiver who is able to complete the online training and offer support with the games.

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