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Virtual Secret Agent Society: Operation Regulation

What’s this project about?

This study aims to evaluate whether a virtual cognitive behavioural intervention, Secret Agent Society: Operation Regulation (SAS:OR), can help youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) cope with their emotions and handle the day-to-day stressors in their lives. By neurodevelopmental disability, we mean a diagnosis of autism, a learning disability, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or cerebral palsy.

How will we go about doing this project?

Participating involves weekly 1-hour online sessions (via Zoom), where eligible families will meet with a trained therapist for one-on-one therapy. Youth will get to do an assortment of activities and play games (e.g., computer games, problem-solving tasks, and role-playing). The activities are aimed to help build emotion regulation skills. Parents actively participate in the sessions as well.

To evaluate the SAS:OR's effectiveness, families participate in research throughout the program (completing online questionnaires before, during and after the program). There is no cost for participating in the program.

SAS:OR Team

Our Secret Agent Society: Operation Regulation (SAS:OR) Program team are clinical-developmental psychology trainees, post-doctoral fellows, and research assistants.

Dr. Casey Fulford
Dr. Casey Fulford
Also a SAS:OR Assessor and Therapist

My clinical experience and interests focus on supporting individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and mental health challenges. I am thrilled to be part of the SAS:OR team as a therapist and clinical supervisor.

Carly Albaum
Carly Albaum

I'm a PhD student in Dr. Weiss' lab, and I've had the opportunity to be involved in SAS:OR program for the past 6 years as a researcher and a therapist. My research is focused on the relationship children have with their therapist and the importance of this relationship for treatment outcomes in therapy for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Ava Pouyandeh

I’m a research assistant in Dr. Weiss’ lab. I am involved in the research screenings and assessments for the SAS:OR program as a child assessor. I am passionate about exploring the factors influencing emotion regulation in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Paula Tablon
Paula Tablon Modica

I'm the lab coordinator for Dr. Weiss's lab. I have had the opportunity to coordinate the SAS:OR program in the past. I am currently involved in the research screenings and assessments as a caregiver/child assessor. I'm interested in implementing and evaluating programs, like SAS:OR, in the community.

Annie Mills

I am a MA student in Dr. Weiss' lab. I am a caregiver assessor for the SAS:OR program. My research interest is in the role of emotion regulation processes in the mental health of individuals with developmental disabilities, and how these processes can inform treatment across the lifespan. I am also interested in how physiological arousal may be associated with emotion regulation and help predict treatment outcomes for autistic people.

Bianca Bondi
Bianca Bondi

I'm a PhD student in the Clinical-Developmental Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology stream. My research explores the neurodevelopment of young children exposed prenatally to substances, with special consideration of the cumulative risk and protective factors that these children are exposed to. My work is embedded at Breaking the Cycle, an identification and prevention program that reduces risk and enhances development in substance-exposed children, with an overall focus on the mother-child relationship and early intervention.

Elizabeth Wanstall
Elizabeth Wanstall

I'm a PhD student in the Clinical-Developmental Neuropsychology program. My research looks at new ways of measuring executive functions in children with neurodevelopmental conditions, such as ADHD. I have a background in education and teaching, where I spent a lot of time working in special education classrooms with students of all ages and challenges. I am so excited to be a member of the amazing SAS:OR team!

Flora Roudbarani
Flora Roudbarani

I've been working as a research assistant in Dr. Weiss' lab since 2016. I'm excited to continue my work in the SAS:OR program as a child assessor and researching emotion regulation, mindfulness and mental health in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Marie Hooper
Marie Hooper

I am a doctoral student at York in the Clinical-Developmental Psychology program. My research looks at family experiences (parent and siblings) of children with complex neurological, medical needs. I currently serve on the Family Advisory Committee at Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital. I currently work part-time at the Hospital for Sick Children conducting research with families and children experiencing complex mental and physical health challenges. I live in Toronto with my husband, two young children, and my cat, Logan!

Melody Asghari
Melody Asghari

I am a PhD student in the Clinical Developmental Psychology program at York University. My research focuses on adolescent development and mental health with a central focus on interpersonal relationships, specifically peer groups and romantic relationships.

Rachael Lyon
Rachael Lyon

Clinical Developmental Neuropsychology program. My graduate research looks at how executive functions develop and interact with symptoms of inattention and impulsivity in young people over time. Currently, I work part-time at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health doing research assessments with autistic teenagers and young adults and mental health challenges. I am delighted to be a part of the SAS:OR team!

Shaylea Badovinac
Shaylea Badovinac

I am a PhD Student in Clinical-Developmental Psychology at York University. My research studies how parents help infants and toddlers develop emotion regulation skills. In my free time, I love baking, playing soccer, and reading.

Tracy Fabri
Tracy Fabri

I am currently completing my PhD in Clinical Developmental Neuropsychology. I greatly enjoy working with children, youth, and their families in both clinical and recreational roles. I am excited to bring my experience and excitement to the SAS:OR team and look forward to working with the new Secret Agent Society recruits!

Who are involved?

Youth between 8 and 13 years of age with a formal NDD diagnosis of autism, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or cerebral palsy. To participate, families had (1) significant parent reports of youth difficulties with emotion regulation and mental health challenges (based on clinical measures) and (2) access to high-speed internet and technology with a camera and microphone. Youth needed to be motivated and have the capacity to participate virtually.

What will we do with our research findings?

This study will provide us with an understanding of emotion regulation processes for people with NDD and help us improve the intervention. Results of this study may also lead to a reduction of youth’s levels of negative emotions. We will write an article summarizing our findings to submit to an academic journal, present the results at national and international conferences, and create a summary of our findings to post on this website.

What is the next step?

We are currently recruiting families for this research study. If you are interested in participating, please contact sasor@yorku.ca.

Want to know more about this project?

For more information, please feel free to contact sasor@yorku.ca or Dr. Jonathan Weiss (jonweiss@yorku.ca), Principal Investigator on the study.

Results

Infographic

Thank you to all the families currently participating or have participated in the SAS:OR Program!


This project is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the York Research Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disability Mental Health.