Dr. Kate Woodcock is studying “task switching” difficulties in PWS. People with PWS have deficits in their ability to task switch, and this may contribute to repetitive behaviors and temper outbursts (see a recent blog here, and information about Dr. Woodcock’s FPWR supported study, here). Dr. Woodcock’s group is recruiting for three studies related to this issue.
Dr Kate Woodcock and her team at Queen’s University Belfast are now starting the second phase of their TASTER study (Training Attention Switching for Temper Episode Reduction). During the first phase of the study, they have developed a full prototype of the first ever video game tailored specifically to train task switching in children with PWS. Task switching is a brain process that we know individuals with PWS find difficult. Task switching difficulties are linked to the challenges that individuals with PWS experience when things change in their routines, plans or expectations. The aim of the TASTER project is to design a way to improve individuals’ task switching ability, and so ultimately reduce the challenge experienced by individuals with PWS when things change, and help individuals to show fewer temper outbursts that follow change. You can find out more about this phase of the study here: www.tasterproject.com/about.
The research team has built the current prototype game in collaboration with a small group of children with PWS and their families because that allows them to be sure that the game meets individuals’ needs. You can view the prototype using a mobile device here: www.tasterproject.com/mobile/play. The team have shown that even a short period of play with our current prototype game can improve cognitive skill in task switching. Now, the aim of the second phase of the TASTER project aim is to greatly improve the game so that it:
- Is suitable for a wide range of individuals with PWS, both children and adults
- It is exciting and motivating for all players so that they are eager to play regularly over several weeks (because this is the level of engagement that we know from research with other populations of individuals, can have a positive impact on behaviour)
The team is looking for families who would like to be involved in this exciting phase of the study. Individuals with PWS can be any age providing they are at least 6 years old by June 2017. Individuals with PWS must also have access to a tablet computer (or similar such as a smart telephone) to play the game on and an internet connection. Finally, individuals with PWS must be happy enough to play the current prototype of our game for several minutes. Participation can take place from family’s homes and can be very flexible to fit in with families’ busy lives.
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE BEHAVIOR STUDY
The goal of this study is to understand how ‘resistance to change’ develops in persons with PWS or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Parents or caregivers of a person with PWS (5 years or older) can participate in person (Queens University, Belfast) or remotely via a phone interview. More information can be found here.
PREDICTORS (Parent Resources for Decreasing the Incidence of Change Triggered Temper Outbursts) is seeking parents and caregivers of children with PWS (age 7-16) who frequently have temper outbursts associated with unexpected changes to routine. This study, and an accompanying focus group study, will test and optimize strategies to reduce temper outbursts in people with PWS. Participants can complete the study remotely (ie, without visiting Queens University). More information about the PREDICTORS study can be found in here.