Better understanding the way children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and autism cope in social settings is the focus of a new research partnership between Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and The Centre for Child Development.
FASD and autism are both brain-based disorders, and people with these disorders may have difficulties with social interactions. Dr. Daniel Bernstein, the principal investigator and a psychology instructor who heads the Lifespan Cognition Lab at KPU, says children with autism are known to have problems understanding someone else’s perspective in social situations. “We want to know if children with FASD have a similar kind of problem taking perspective or if they do better,” he adds.
“While there is a lot known about autism, there isn’t much known about FASD and how it impacts children’s abilities to socially relate to other people,” says Michelle Hunsche, a KPU graduate who is the project coordinator.
The project is looking for children diagnosed with FASD and autism to take part in the research, which involves an hour of monitored play and interaction between the children and research assistants.
“While there are some services out there, it is a lot more limited than for children with autism or other types of disabilities. Children with FASD really need those services and support and we’re hoping with this research we can give that to them,” says Hunsche. “It’s really important to get people participating in these types of studies so we can better understand these conditions and hopefully try to help these children.”
The Centre for Child Development employs more than 150 professionals who provide services to 3,000 children with special needs each year. By partnering with KPU on this research project, the Centre hopes to quickly translate scientific findings into new services and resources to benefit children with special needs in the Lower Mainland.
“FASD has typically been an underserved population for many reasons, including the stigma that still exists around it,” says Registered Psychologist Dr. Brian Katz, director of Psychology and Family Services at The Centre for Child Development. “We certainly hope to bring awareness to those people and families living with FASD and provide some research that hasn’t been done before.”
This project is funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Engage Grant and supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program.
For more information about the program or to participate, visit http://lifespancognition.org/portfolio-item/participate/ or call (604) 599-2162.