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Canadian Innovators Tap Into Therapeutic Video Games to Help Treat
Children With Neurodevelopment Disabilities
Dino Island improves attention and executive function in children with neurodevelopmental
Calgary, A.B. & Surrey, B.C. – An innovative team of Canadian partners have come together
bridging academic university, private industry, and community health leadership for child brain health,
bringing a novel therapeutic video game to children and families. Led by Dr. Sarah Macoun from the
University of Victoria, the partnership showcases innovative capabilities within a large multi-site
clinical research study, to explore how the Dino Island therapeutic video game can improve attention,
working memory, and executive function in children with neurodevelopment disabilities.
The partners include the University of Victoria, The Uncomplicated Family (TUF, Calgary),
HealthTech Connex’s Centre for Neurological Studies and the NeuroCatch Platform (Surrey),
the Child Development Foundation of BC (Surrey), and Woodview Autism and Mental Health
Services (Ontario). This partnership initiative emerged from Surrey’s Health and Technology
District and is a product of decades of leading-edge research started by Dr. Catherine Mateer and
Dr. Kimberly Kerns from the University of Victoria. It represents a major milestone in translating
leading research into health technology benefits for Canadians and children around the globe.
Through a combination of research, clinical studies, innovation, and clinical expertise, the multi-year
partnership enables collaborators to offer a video-game based treatment program for children with
neurodevelopmental disabilities. Their goal is to help children with special needs reach their potential
through the development and use of novel, evidence-based innovations, to improve neuro-
behavioural outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental challenges.
The therapeutic video game is called Dino Island (pictured above), a cognitive intervention program
rooted in neuroscience and is used to help treat neurodevelopmental disabilities using innovation
translated from the Kids Brain Health Network. As a “serious game,” Dino Island takes advantage of
the popularity of video games, particularly in growing pandemic times, to support healthy brain
development in children. The Dino Island Intervention Program consists of five serious video games,
each designed to deliver therapeutic benefits while it looks and feels like a video game.
“Dino Island demonstrates what is possible when Canadian researchers, health professionals,
technological innovators, and our funding partners work together to meet a vital need,” shares Dr.
Sarah Macoun, Principal Investigator for the Dino Island Intervention Program at the University
of Victoria. “Between seven and 14 per cent of children live with developmental disorders and
cognitive challenges. We’ve created a treatment program that kids are willing to give the time required
to make it effective, doesn’t require a clinical expert to deliver it, and can be used anywhere that an
online video game can be used.”
Researchers at University of Victoria developed Dino Island as a cognitive intervention program for
attention and executive functioning impairments, specifically designed for children with
neurodevelopmental disorders, which combines the appeal of tablet-based gaming with the
effectiveness of an in-person, interventionist-child structure. Dino Island was developed with the
specific goals of being effective, affordable, and accessible.
“With Dino Island, our partners and TUF are working to transform the entertainment power of video
games into a health intervention that children enjoy, parents can feel good about, and our researchers
and clinicians can use to offer affordable, accessible treatment options at home, at school, or in the
community,” explains Robyn Woods, CEO & Founder at TUF.
Dr. Brian Katz, a Registered Psychologist and the Vice President of Child and Youth Services
at The Centre for Child Development noted, “Our goal, through this unique partnership, is to help
improve outcomes in children with neurodevelopmental challenges by pairing research and
innovation. Through groundbreaking programs like Dino Island, The Centre is able to bring cutting
edge innovations to our clients which helps us achieve our mission of helping children with special
needs reach their potential.”
Clinicians, family supports, educational assistants, and all caregivers of children living with
developmental disorders and cognitive challenges are invited to explore the Dino Island Intervention
Program at: http://uvicdinoisland.cogtrain.ca
The University of Victoria is currently welcoming registrations for children that will benefit from
treatment to improve their attention and executive function, and will be supported by a caregiver who
is able to complete the online training and offer support with the games.
About The Uncomplicated Family:
We are The Uncomplicated Family, a progressive and passionate health company. We embrace
commitment, innovation and compassion to enhance the quality of life for individuals, families and
communities who are affected by disabilities. The Uncomplicated Family Corporate Group includes
Kids Uncomplicated Inc. The Uncomplicated Family builds revolutionary collaboration software tools,
therapy support apps. www.theuncomplicatedfamily.com
About HealthTech Connex Inc.:
Located in the Health and Technology District in Surrey, B.C., HealthTech Connex Inc. is a brain
technology company focusing on cutting-edge innovations and services for rapid impact on health
improvements and outcomes in neurological performance. With brain vitality as a premier focus,
HealthTech Connex provides translational neuroscience innovations to care and community sectors
worldwide; bridging the gap between what’s capable in the laboratory and what’s available in the real-
world. The company runs the Centre for Neurology Studies to support innovative clinical trials and
develops the “best-in-class” medical device, the NeuroCatch® Platform. NeuroCatch is an objective,
rapid neuro-physiological brain function assessment system that is licensed by Health Canada as a
Class II medical device. It is easy to use, cost-effective and readily accessible to healthcare
practitioners, researchers and performance specialists in Canada, the US and beyond.
About The Child Development Foundation of BC:
The Child Development Foundation of BC is a charitable organization whose mission is to support
The Centre For Child Development. Since 1953, The Centre for Child Development has been helping
children with special needs reach their potential. We started as a grass-roots group of parents
cooperatively organizing transportation to therapy sessions in Vancouver. Through the decades,
we’ve grown to a team of over 160 staff with expertise in providing a wide range of collaborative
therapeutic services to more than 3,000 children each year.
We focus on providing service with integrity, caring and compassion. We consistently challenge
ourselves to improve upon best practices and lead our field. Our professionals include: pediatric
psychologists, family service and key workers, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists,
physiotherapists, early childhood educators, supported child development specialists, recreation
specialists, dietician, doctor, victims services workers, social workers and police. www.the-centre.org.
See us in the news.
Researchers in B.C. and Alberta are working on a new video game to help children with neurodevelopmental disabilities like autism and are looking for volunteers.
Researchers from Victoria, Surrey and Calgary have developed Dino Island to help improve attention, memory and other mental functions. The program consists of five games designed to deliver therapeutic benefits.
The creators of Dino Island hope to leverage the popularity of video games to develop attention and executive functions in children. The game, according to principal investigator Sarah Macoun of the University of Victoria, is a treatment program that kids will stick with long enough to make it effective and doesn’t require a clinical expert to deliver it.