Student Spotlight: Aamena Kapasi (University of Alberta)

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Aamena Kapasi is a PhD student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Alberta. She completed her BSc at the University of Alberta with a specialization in Psychology, and her MA in Counselling Psychology at the University of Western Ontario. She has a passion for both research and clinical work with children, youth, and families. Aamena’s doctoral research is focused on supports and interventions for individuals with FASD, and she is currently working under the supervision of Dr. Jacquie Pei and Dr. Carmen Rasmussen. 

The ability to manage your thoughts, impulses, and emotions is an essential skill in order to stay calm, focused, and alert in everyday situations. This ability is called self-regulation, and is an area that individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) often struggle with.

The Alert Program®, developed by Williams & Shellenberger (1996), is a self-regulation training program with reported positive outcomes for children with FASD. In our study, the Alert Program® was adapted and administered to adolescents with FASD. It is essential to focus on supporting individuals with FASD throughout the lifespan, as adolescents with FASD are at a critical age of change and growth, and can benefit from targeted interventions.

The self-regulation intervention is a twelve session, one-on-one program where the adolescent meets with a trained interventionist to learn how to identify their internal state of regulation, be it low (e.g., tired, bored, distracted), high (e.g., hyper, jittery, stressed) or just right (e.g., calm, attentive, focused). They then learn strategies to help them move between the different levels, and specifically remain in a just right place for times when they need to focus, such as in the classroom at school. These strategies may involve using the mouth (e.g., sucking on a hard candy), movement (e.g., chair push-ups), touch (e.g., play doh), eyes (e.g., a lava lamp), and ears (e.g., listening to music). Adolescents then work with the interventionist to integrate this new knowledge into their daily life in order for them to function better at home, school, and other environments. The intervention is tailored for each participant, so the vocabulary and strategies fit with the adolescent’s personal preferences and environmental circumstances.

Pre, post, and follow up testing is completed in order to monitor changes in behavioural, cognitive, and physiological areas. We are investigating changes in adaptive and disruptive behaviours, thinking and reasoning such as impulsivity, decision making, attention, and physiological changes including cortisol levels and sleep. By using a variety of measures, we are hoping to increase our understanding of how a self-regulation intervention may benefit adolescents with FASD.

Exploring ways to improve self-regulation in adolescents with FASD allows for the development of more effective intervention initiatives that may help adolescents with FASD best access their strengths and improve overall outcomes for this group. Increasing self-regulation abilities in adolescents with FASD may ultimately contribute to reducing the risk of negative outcomes common in the FASD population, helping them transition more successfully into adulthood.

If you have any questions about the research or would like to get in contact with Aamena Kapasi, she can be reached at kapasi@ualberta.ca.

Aamena Kapasi is also currently involved in multiple other research projects, including studies investigating adverse childhood experiences in children with prenatal alcohol exposure, employment success in adults with FASD, the relationship between executive functioning and maternal drinking, and developing a model of intervention research in FASD.

During her Masters, Aamena Kapasi also conducted research with caregivers of children with prenatal alcohol exposure under the supervision of Dr. Jason Brown. If you are interested in learning more about this work, please see the links below.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cfs.12288/abstract

http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/2713/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s41252-017-0030-8

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-017-0776-7

Are you interested in having your research, or the research of one of your students, featured? Please send us a note through the contact page on the blog or email Kelly Coons (kelly.coons@canfasd.ca) or Marnie Makela (marnie.hutchison@gmail.com) for more information.

KellyEric-21

Hello! I’m Dr. Kelly Harding (née Coons) and I’m one of the voices behind the CanFASD blog. I’m also the Research Coordinator and a Research Assistant with CanFASD working in Ontario, Canada. I received my PhD in Interdisciplinary Rural and Northern Health from Laurentian University.  My work focuses on health services in rural and Northern Ontario, with a particular focus on health care professionals in training and their preparation regarding FASD.

         

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