A new research project from the University of the Fraser Valley (Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada) uses video games to help test the motor skills of children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (or FASD). UFV has been running the after-school program, FAST Club, for children with FASD for the past three years. But this year brings a new element to the program – video games. The after-school video game program called BrainGamers Club helps children with FASD work on their motor skills and gaming skills, and measures whether the impact of these activities cross over into other areas.
“A typical approach to treating children with FASD involves focusing on their weaknesses. We do assessments and target their best areas and give them choices about what skills they want to improve upon,” says Dr. Chris Bertram, head of UFV's kinesiology program and one of the project researchers. “We have seen positive changes in other brain functions after participating in our FAST club.”
The BrainGamers project is based at the UFV Abbotsford campus. BrainGamers participants play tailored video games while their brainwaves are measured through a cap they will wear.
“If the brain area we’re focusing on becomes overactive or underactive, the visual appearance of the screen will change," Bertram said. "The only way the child will be able to fix the screen will be by altering the electrical output of the brain. We’re hoping that over time if the brain patterns change, we’ll see some positive behavioural outcomes, as has been the case in studies of children with other developmental disabilities.”
“There are very few programs offered just for kids with an FASD diagnosis,” adds Alison Pritchard-Orr, another member of the UFV research team. “This is a university-run project where the children get to work with enthusiastic university students who also enjoy the program. It’s a definite plus for them to get this kind of attention. And the activities they do are based on their strengths and specifically tailored to them.”
UFV is working closely with two multi-university partners – NeuroDevNet and GRAND, a group whose specialty is graphics animation and new media development to create video games for the diagnosis and treatment of various childhood brain disorders.
More information on the program can be found here.
Source: Chilliwack Times