Laurie Ford

Associate Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
The development of anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorders (2017)

Although up to 40% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a comorbid anxiety disorder, little is known about the origins and trajectory of change in anxiety symptoms in ASD. Characteristics specific to ASD such as social impairments and alexithymia may alter the experience of anxiety in this population. Consequently, anxiety may differ in the ASD population and merits focused study. This dissertation consists of two related studies that used data from the longitudinal Pathways in ASD study. The psychometric properties of the Spence Children’s Anxiety Scale – Parent Form (SCAS-P) in 238 children who were seen annually from ages 7.5 to 11 were examined in Study 1. While the original six-factor structure was not a good fit in this sample, four subscales reflecting Generalized, Separation Anxiety, Panic and Agoraphobia symptoms were identified. In Study 2, parent ratings of Generalized, Separation Anxiety, Panic and Agoraphobia symptoms were captured at snapshots in middle childhood, as well as changing over time in 262 children who were seen annually between ages 7.5 to 11. The proportion of children whose parents rated them as experiencing Elevated Generalized Anxiety was comparable to past reports, though rates of Elevated Separation Anxiety symptoms were higher than past reports. Parent-rated Generalized Anxiety, Separation Anxiety, Panic and Agoraphobia symptoms were stable over the middle childhood years, and there was little variance in the trajectories of all except the Separation Anxiety domain. Children with age-typical language abilities were rated as experiencing higher levels of Generalized and Separation Anxiety in middle childhood. Parent-rated anxiety in early childhood significantly predicted higher Generalized and Separation anxiety across middle childhood, while parental internalizing symptoms in early childhood were predictive of Generalized, but not Separation Anxiety symptoms. There were no differences in Generalized or Separation Anxiety levels across ages 7-11 between boys and girls. The results of this research offer a deeper understanding of the psychometric properties of one widely used anxiety rating scale, as well as its predictors, incidence and development over middle childhood. In turn, this understanding can support efforts aimed at preventing and treating anxiety disorders in ASD.

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Executive functions and subtypes of aggression in young children (2014)

No abstract available.

Mothers' experiences : participating in the feedback conference of their chld's psychoeducational assessment (2010)

A comprehensive psychoeducational assessment for a child who is having learning or behavioural difficulties is a significant event for parents. It helps them understand their child’s cognitive and learning needs, and support the ongoing development of their children by determining the educational support given at home, and additional services that need to be provided. How parents view the overall assessment and the psychologist’s recommendations can have a great impact on what decisions they make for the child following the assessment; it forms the basis for how they approach their child’s difficulties and meet his/her needs. However, there are few studies that examine parents’ experience with this assessment process. The purpose of this study was to understand mothers’ experiences with participating in the feedback conference for their child’s psychoeducational assessment and to explore the experiences that influenced their ability to follow through with the recommendations made by the psychologist. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology was used to analyze the interview data from eight mothers of elementary school-age children who had a psychoeducational assessment within the past year. The emphasis of this study was on the meaning of this experience for mothers. Three broad themes and 11 subthemes emerged from the analysis of mothers’ experiences with the feedback conference, which included: Experiences of Finding Out, Emotional Experiences, and Experiences of Satisfaction. With respect to follow through with recommendations, eight subthemes were identified, which were grouped into three broad themes: Experiences Facilitating Follow Through, Experiences Inhibiting Follow Through, and Experiences Facilitating or Inhibiting Follow Through. These themes are presented and discussed in relation to the existing literature. Implications of the study, strengths and limitations and suggestions for future research are also addressed.

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Examining the impact of child characteristics and microsystem variables on the prosocial behaviour trajectories of Canadian children : a longitudinal study using the NLSCY (2009)

In this study the impact of child characteristics and microsystem variables on developmental trajectories of prosocial behaviour in Canadian children between the ages of 4 and 11 years was examined. In addition, whether the relationship between parenting practices and prosocial behaviour trajectories is moderated by gender, temperament, family SES or use on non-parental care and whether the relationship between non-parental child care and prosocial behaviour trajectories is moderated family SES was also examined. Using data obtained from six cycles of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), growth curve analyses were conducted using Hierarchical Linear Modelling (HLM) software. It was found that children’s initial levels of prosocial behaviour at the age of 4 years were significantly impacted by their gender, temperament, presence of siblings, and family SES. Females, children with ‘easy’ temperaments, children without siblings, and children of higher SES were found to display higher initial levels of prosocial behaviours at four years of age. However, the rate at which prosocial behaviour changes between the ages of 4 and 11 years was not influenced by any of the predictor variables included in the study. Positive parenting practices were associated with higher levels of prosocial behaviour and hostile/ineffective parenting practices were associated with lower levels of prosocial behaviour. The study also revealed two important interactive effects. The beneficial effect of positive parenting on prosocial behaviour was found to be stronger for children rated as having ‘easy’ temperaments compared with the effect for children with ‘difficult’ temperaments and the impact of non-parental care on prosocial behaviour trajectories was moderated by family SES. Low SES children who received non-parental care at 2 to 3 years of age displayed higher levels of prosocial behaviour than those of low SES who did not experience non-parental care. Of those children who experienced non-parental care at 2 to 3 years of age, hours in non-parental care or whether the care was licensed or not did not significantly impact prosocial behaviour trajectories.

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The bilingual assessment of cognitive abilities in French and English (2008)

In this study the role that language plays in the expression of intelligence, bilingualism, and the process of assessing selected cognitive abilities was explored. The primary purpose of the study was to determine if individuals who are allowed to move from one language to another when they provide responses to test items produce results that are different than those obtained by bilingual examinees assessed in one language only. The results indicate that the Experimental Group obtained significantly higher results than the Control Group on all the tests and subtests used. The Experimental Group code-switched more frequently and the examiners only code-switched with that group. The frequency of the code-switching behaviours explains, in great part, all the differences noted in the results as very few other sources of differences were identified, even when groups were compared on sex, first language and relative proficiency in French and in English.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Exploring perceptions of positive mental health in young adults with intellectual disabilities (2018)

Individuals with intellectual disabilities are at a greater risk of developing mental health difficulties than typically developing individuals (Munir, 2016). One way that mental health difficulties have been targeted and treated in recent years is by providing people with education about mental health, what it is and strategies to promote it. Mental health literacy is the process by which people learn how to obtain and maintain positive mental health; understanding mental disorders and their treatments; decreasing stigma related to mental disorders; and enhancing help-seeking efficacy (Kutcher, Wei, & Coniglio, 2016). When individuals understand what positive mental health is, they are more likely to take steps that contribute to it (Barry & Jenkins, 2007). While individuals with intellectual disabilities experience higher than average levels of mental health difficulties, especially young adults, there is limited research about how they view mental health, specifically, positive mental health. The researcher in this study sought to gain a better understanding of how young adults with intellectual disabilities conceptualize and define the concept of positive mental health, by employing a phenomenographic methodology. Eight participants were interviewed by the researcher and the qualitative interviews were analyzed in accordance to the phenomenographic method. Categories of description were identified through data analysis, which provided insight into how study participants defined positive mental health. The main categories of description that emerged from the data included defining positive mental health as related to physical health, and participants expressing that they were not sure what positive mental health was. Additionally, positive qualities were part of some individual’s definition (including happiness and positive actions), and mental health issues. This study provides important information to clinicians as it highlights the need for further research about how to best support individuals with intellectual disabilities in their psycho-education around mental health issues.

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Mothers of children with autism from the South Asian diaspora : the lived experiences of the home-school relationship (2018)

There are a myriad of cultural factors that influence the home-school partnership for families with children with disability (Boyd & Correa, 2005; Harry, 2002; Kalyanpur, Harry, & Skrtic, 2010). South Asian families contend with community stigmas, which may prevent them from openly discussing their child’s disability and actively engaging in their child’s school (Heer, Larkin, & Rose, 2015; Ravindran & Myers, 2012; Rizvi, 2017; Zechella & Raval, 2016). Teachers and schools need to understand the best way to communicate with the families, and encourage their involvement (Welterlin & LaRue, 2007; Zhang & Bennett, 2003). Trust is an essential component to the development of a positive partnership between schools and families (Adams & Christenson, 1998; 2000). The primary objective of this research was to gain a better understanding of the school experiences of South Asian parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (autism) as well as the role of trust in their school relationships. Using qualitative methods and an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with four South Asian parents of children who have been formally designated with autism. Participants were asked to share their experiences regarding their interactions with their child’s school and what role trust played in their experiences. Findings indicate that South Asian parents tend to have an innate trust with schools and teachers. As they interact with their child’s teacher and the school system, the frequency and severity of their positive and negative experiences impact their level of trust. Differences in experience relate to the differences in each participant’s contextually bound lifeworld.

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Teacher assistants in Canadian inclusive classrooms : an investigation into their deployment, preparedness, and impact (2018)

Current trends in Canada and the world reflect a gradual increase in the utilization of Teacher Assistants (TAs; otherwise known as education assistants, learning support assistants, or paraprofessionals, hereafter TAs) in inclusive classrooms to support students with special educational needs. Due to the increased number of TAs in schools, teachers will likely encounter and work with TAs in their own classrooms and likewise, students are likely to be supported by them. Seemingly, the purpose of TAs is to provide support for students with special educational needs thereby increasing their academic achievement and social inclusion. However, research internationally has found that TA support is not always fulfilling this purpose; instead, increased TA support can lead to lower academic achievement and social exclusion for these students. Studies internationally have identified a number of factors as contributing to ineffective TA support. However, research on TA support in Canada is sparse. The current study employed an online survey within British Columbia completed by 329 TAs and 48 teachers to gain a better understanding of the roles of TAs from the perspective of teachers and TAs including, how prepared they are for their work, and the impact they are perceived to be making on student outcomes. Findings suggested that the TA’s role is ever changing and diverse, but most of their time is spent working one-to-one with students with special educational needs. They report that they are well-trained initially and have much experience, but lack ongoing professional development opportunities in areas such as instruction and decision-making about student work. Issues were raised throughout the study such as the lack of collaboration and communication between TAs and teachers and little respect, appreciation, and recognition for TAs. This research is one of the first in Canada on this topic and has provided insights into changes that can be made to how TAs are deployed and prepared in order to maximize their impact on student outcomes.

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Indigenous parents of students with special needs in education : the lived experience (2017)

Parents of students with special needs may experience stressors in association with their interaction with the education system. Meetings with multiple professionals can be intimidating, the process of assessment can be confusing, terminology used may be unfamiliar, and realizing their child is having challenges may be upsetting. Following the designation, navigation of special education services can also be challenging. Parents of Indigenous children may experience additional stressors. There is an incompatibility between traditional Indigenous cultural values and mainstream education, constructs that exist in special education may not exist in the same way in Indigenous culture, and some parents believe assessment is attempted assimilation. In addition, many parents have previous involvement with residential schools. Students who attended experienced loss of language and culture, and many also experienced abuse. These factors may impact how Indigenous parents perceive the current education system. In the present study, the experiences of seven Indigenous parents of students with special needs in education were explored. The aim was to better understand the experience of Indigenous parents regarding the processes that lead to their child’s designation and their navigation of special education services. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Six broad themes emerged following data analysis using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Findings indicate some commonalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous parent experiences. The use of special education terminology may be upsetting, feelings of guilt and intimidation may arise when interacting with educators, learning how to navigate the system can be time consuming, and parents may experience stress as a result of their child being bullied. In addition, findings identified which are specific to Indigenous parents and supported by previous studies include: significant parent involvement in their child’s education, the importance of relationships with educators, the inclusivity of Indigenous communities, possible cultural discontinuity between the home and school, the construct of special needs not existing or existing in a different way in traditional culture or language, and the possible impact having a family member who attended residential school may have on the current view of schools for children and their parents.

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Sense of belonging and immigrant parents : strengthening the family-school partnership (2017)

Immigrant students and families are increasingly becoming important members of our education system. In 2014, Canada welcomed more than 200,000 newcomers (Citizenship & Immigration Canada, 2015). The experience and success of immigrant students has been linked to many school and home factors (Alexander, Entwisle, & Thompson, 1987; Fuligini, 1997). Culturally based explanations of success argue that immigrant students’ success and experiences in school can be fully explained by their race or socioeconomic status (Trueba, 1988). The effectiveness of their home (family) and school environments should also be considered (Trueba, 1988). Research has also demonstrated that immigrant families contribute to their child’s education in different ways (Fuligni, 1997; Lopez, 2001). Therefore, family-school partnership is very integral to immigrant students’ success. While schools have focused on different ways of integrating students and families in schools, some scholars argue that studying how immigrant individuals experience sense of belonging is a more appropriate direction (Hurtado & Carter, 1997). However, research is unclear on how immigrant families, who are new members of the community, can become part of the school community (Puig, Erwin, Evenson, & Beresford, 2015). Employing an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, this study used semi-structured interviews to explore immigrant families’ perceptions and experiences of sense of belonging in their child’s school, and teachers’ perceptions of sense of belonging for school community members and experiences of enhancing sense of belonging for immigrant families. The findings suggest that families perceive sense of belonging as being informed, having a support system, and feeling emotionally safe. They experienced sense of belonging in their children’s schools when they felt included, and had effective communication. Teachers perceived that sense of belonging for school community members means having a welcoming environment. Teachers also discussed communication and relationship building as some of the strategies they use in enhancing sense of belonging for immigrant parents. Relevance of these findings with their implications in a broader sociocultural understanding is discussed.

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It's OK to feel frustrated : how social comparison and motivational beliefs influence students' self-regulation (2016)

During the learning process, frustration can be a significant obstacle for students, particularly in a classroom, when learners perceive that their peers can solve a problem more easily. The processes and beliefs that enable students to control their thoughts and actions to achieve personal goals are referred to as self-regulation. Dweck (1986; 2000) posited that the beliefs individuals have about their abilities, in particular about their intelligence, described as either a fixed or growth mindset, may mediate their use of self-regulatory strategies. An extension of Dweck’s research suggests that individuals also have beliefs about the amount of mental resources they have for exerting self- control (i.e., willpower) that are described as either limited or unlimited (Job, Dweck, & Walton, 2010). The purpose of the current study was to investigate how students’ beliefs about intelligence and willpower influenced their self-regulation during a potentially frustrating task with opportunities for social comparison. Participants in this study were public school students, aged 11 to 13 (N = 64; 40 female, 24 male), who were asked to solve puzzles in pairs. One student was given a solvable puzzle and the other was given an unsolvable puzzle. Students were not made aware of differences in the difficulty of the puzzle task before solving it. Questionnaires, observations, and performance on a cognitive task were used as measures of their beliefs, behaviours, emotions, and self- control. Data were analyzed using correlations, independent samples t-tests, and analysis of variance. Results indicated that the implemented experimental procedures induced frustration: students in the unsolvable condition displayed and self-reported greater frustration than students in the solvable condition. In addition, results indicated that frustration does not necessarily induce self-control depletion: no statistical difference was found in students’ self-control between conditions. However, students’ self- regulation was influenced by their beliefs about intelligence: students who viewed their intelligence as fixed demonstrated significantly greater self-control depletion than students who viewed their intelligence as capable of growing. Finally, results suggested that the concept of willpower may not be fully understood by students at this age: no significant results were found for the influence of students’ beliefs about willpower.

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Parent perspectives of the neighbourhood outdoor play spaces for their young child (2016)

Participation in outdoor play is important for healthy development during the early years, as evidenced by numerous research studies linking participation in outdoor play with positive benefits for children. Previous research has found links between parent perceptions of their neighbourhood and children’s participation in outdoor play, suggesting the importance of considering how parents view outdoor play spaces. The purpose of this study was to explore and better understand the perspectives of parents regarding the outdoor play spaces in their neighbourhood for their young child. An urban neighbourhood within the City of Vancouver was selected as the location for this study, and 7 parents (6 female, 1 male) of children ages 2 to 5 years old living within the selected neighbourhood participated in the study. The qualitative research methodology photovoice was used to empower participants to share their knowledge and experiences of their community through photographing their community and participating in focus group discussions. Data was collected in the form of participant photographs and transcriptions of focus groups and interviews. Using thematic analysis, the themes that represent the perspectives of this group of parents were identified. The findings revealed two categories of outdoor play spaces, Designed Outdoor Play Spaces and Outdoor Play Spaces of Opportunity. Parents perceived that anywhere outdoors had the potential to be an outdoor play space if it afforded opportunities for play. Outdoor play spaces were used in a variety of ways by parents and their children for Play, Social Connections, and Outdoor Space. Parents also described Modifying Spaces with the goal of Enhancing Spaces or Reducing Concerns. Parents discussed issues of quality related to the outdoor play spaces in their neighborhood, identifying Supporting Factors, Limiting Factors, and Supporting and Limiting Factors that influenced their perceptions of quality and their desire to use a space. The findings of this study suggest the value of considering parent perspectives and indicate important considerations for the design of neighbourhood outdoor play spaces that meet the needs of families and support children’s outdoor play.

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Post-migration experiences of refugee children in Canada : strengths and resilience (2016)

Given the history of immigration and refugee resettlement in Canada, its growing population of newcomers, particularly the recent influx of refugees, calls for a need to explore their experiences after migration. Previous research and clinical practice with refugee children and families have been predominantly trauma-based and focused on the maladaptive aspects of their post-migration lives. While it is important to recognize their unique challenges, this deficit-based model may risk pathologizing the refugee experience itself and disempowering refugee people. The present study uses a strengths-based approach and a qualitative methodology of interpretative phenomenological analysis to understand the lived experiences of children who arrived in Canada with refugee status. The purpose of the study was to explore the meaning of strength in their post-migration experiences by asking how they perceive their own assets and skills and how they describe the impact of their families, schools, and communities on their strengths. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four girls between ages 10 and 14 using a narrative therapy- and arts-method called the Tree of Life as an elicitation device. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for data analysis. Results revealed ten subthemes as strengths and sources of resilience under three broad themes of Individual Strengths, Family Impact, and School/Community Impact. Participants discussed their personal qualities, including Unique Talents, Ability to Face Challenges, Strong Family Bond, Openness to Diversity, Value in Own Culture, and Desire to Help Others, as well as social support in forms of Family as Role Models, Parental Involvement, Social Network, and New Experiences and Opportunities. Findings of this study suggest potential individual, familial, and school/community-related protective factors for refugee children, and significant implications for professionals who work with refugee families in Canada.

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The role of gender norms in adolescent boys' navigation of romantic relationships (2016)

Focus group discussions were analyzed to gain a better understanding of adolescent boys’ psychosocial processes of navigating their romantic relationships. In particular, the role of gender norms in boys’ navigation of romantic relationships was explored. Using grounded theory methodology, focused discussions were held with 23 boys in Grades 9 through 12 at high schools in an urban school district. The central phenomenon identified to be occurring during these participants’ relationship navigation was getting experienced in dating. Six other categories were identified: initiating dating relationships, benefiting/”gaining” from relationships, communication, managing relationship issues, relationship breakdown, and disengaging from dating. Contextual conditions were also found to be influencing participants’ relationship navigation: struggling to be confident, social/digital media culture, peers’ perceptions, parental expectations, multicultural context, female gender stereotypes, and finally, masculine gender norms. The significance of the findings in relation to boys’ relationship navigation, social and emotional learning, the development of psycho-educational interventions, and the implications for school psychologists are discussed.

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Implementation of the Teaching Pyramid (2015)

This case study was conducted to explore the use of the Teaching Pyramid model for supporting social emotional competence of young children within a Canadian child care program. The Teaching Pyramid is a systematic model that can be used to assist child care providers in supporting children who engage in challenging behaviours into their child care programs. This case study focused on one child care program located in a suburb of the lower mainland of British Columbia that has been applying the principles and practices of this model for almost five years. Semi- structured individual interviews and focus group interviews were conducted with the child care educators to gather information on their thoughts and experiences when working with children who engage in challenging behaviour and on their experiences with the Teaching Pyramid, including the ways in which an external coach may or may not have supported the implementation process. In addition to the interviews, the participants were asked to write short narratives that were used as a basis of the group interview. The data was then transcribed and codes and themes were uncovered. Nine themes emerged, the first two related to the participants’ motivation for the professional practice, followed by three themes concerning the strategies used by the participants. Finally, four themes related to the ways in which the participants engaged in their day-to-day practice.

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The experience of mothers and clinicians in the assessment of autism spectrum disorder (2015)

Being told that their child meets criteria for a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is life-changing news for parents. Prior to the diagnosis, they wait and worry and are faced with uncertainty about their child. After receiving the diagnosis, parents must adjust to the loss of “normalcy” and the demands of arranging services. In Canada, psychologists are regularly involved in conducting assessments and communicating the diagnosis of ASD to parents. Despite research examining parents’ experience with the diagnostic process, few studies have additionally considered clinicians’ perspectives and practices in conducting ASD assessments. In the present study, the experiences of mothers and clinicians before, during, and after a diagnosis of ASD were examined. The aim was to better understand how parents present when coming to an assessment for ASD, their reaction to the diagnosis, and the support they and their child received. This had the potential to provide insight into effective ways to meet the needs of parents as they process and attempt to move forward with their child’s diagnosis of ASD. In the present study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with mothers and clinicians from lower mainland British Columbia. Data was categorized and analyzed using an inductive approach to thematic analysis. From the mother interviews, twelve themes emerged to depict experiences across the phases of assessment, while fourteen themes were revealed through clinician interviews. Findings revealed that mothers suspected ASD before the assessment began, clinicians made attempts to be clear and compassionate, and that information regarding resources was sufficient yet overwhelming for parents. In general, mothers were satisfied with the clinician and assessment approach yet discontent with the understanding and support received from outside sources.

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Improving the written communication of psychoeducational recommendations : a vignette study (2014)

It is often the parent’s responsibility to follow through with the recommendations outlined in their child’s psychoeducational report. Yet, despite research demonstrating the importance of effective professional-client communication in fostering follow-through with recommendations, as well as low adherence rates, few studies have examined how to best communicate recommendations to parents. This is an unfortunate reality given that the recommendations are often the most crucial component of the psychoeducational report in enriching the child’s future functioning. In turn, many children’s needs are not attended to and the usefulness of the psychoeducational report is drastically diminished. In the present study, parents’ preferences for the way in which recommendations are communicated in a psychoeducational report was examined. Specifically, by developing a procedure to assist in exploring this topic and field testing different recommendation formats, we hoped to gain insight into parents’ preferences for how written recommendations are presented and communicated. Additionally, the recommendation formats influence on parent’s likelihood to adhere to recommendations was also explored. To accomplish this, a multi-stage, Vignette based, case-study design was employed which combined the Vignette technique with a survey format. Four broad themes and nine subthemes emerged from parents’ review of the different recommendation formats, including: organize recommendations into subject areas with headings, provide recommendations with detailed instructions, provide goals and explain how to monitor progress, and, make recommendations specific. Results also indicated a statistically significant difference in likelihood of adherence depending on which recommendation format was reviewed.

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Professional development in Chilean state funded early childhood education : what do educators have to say? (2014)

This study utilizes a multiple-case study to investigate the knowledge, experience, and needs regarding professional development opportunities of Chilean early childhood educators. The cases of the study are the professional development of the staff employed at two centers that belong to JUNJI and Fundacion Integra foundation, the two main institutions offering state-funded early childhood education in Chile. The participants of this study included two center’s directors and four early childhood educators. Data collection was undertaken using semi-structured interviews, review of documents and a reflective journal. Data were categorized and analyzed adopting an inductive approach to thematic analysis. Four broad themes were identified trough the analysis: different types of professional development, perceptions about the value and effectiveness of professional development activities, professional development needs, and working conditions.Participants of this study described their experiences in a variety of professional development activities including orientation; ongoing training in the form of workshops, talks and courses; learning communities; beginning of the year intensive training; and diplomas and degrees. In general, professional development was regarded by all participants as an essential component in their careers as early childhood educators. However not all participants shared the same perception about the effectiveness of different types of professional development activities available to them. Participants expressed several needs that in their view would maximize the potential benefits of professional development activities. Those needs encompassed greater duration and depth in orientation sessions and ongoing training activities; access to ongoing training activities for a greater number of educators; more opportunities to receive training guided by subject matter experts both inside and outside the centers; more training focused in topics related to language development, socioemotional development, and assessment; greater economic support to pursue postgraduate studies; and improvement of the initial training of early childhood educators. In one center the participants discussed several working conditions that affected their overall daily experiences at work. Participants indicated that lack of time, increased administrative work, and low staff-child ratio were factors that hampered their work at the center, including but also transcending professional development activities.

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Transition from preschool to kindergarten : a perspective for children with autism spectrum disorder (2014)

Entry into kindergarten is a critical developmental time for children and research consistently demonstrates the need for specific practices to facilitate this transition (Pianta, 2007; Schulting, Malone, & Kenneth, 2005). Although successful transition into kindergarten is a consideration for students in general education, students with special education needs, such as students with autism spectrum disorder, may require additional transition planning (Beamish, Bryer, & Klieve, 2014; Forest, Horner, Lewis-Palmer, & Todd, 2004; Villeneuve et al., 2013). More empirical evidence is needed to draw conclusions about the types of transition practices that best facilitate this developmental period for children with autism spectrum disorder. The purpose of the current study was to add to this literature base by providing empirical evidence of kindergarten transition practices for children with autism spectrum disorder. Data were collected from a sample of 24 parents on concerns about child behaviour, implementation of transition practices, perceived importance of transition practices, and barriers to implementing transition practices. Descriptive statistics were utilized to determine the mean level of child behaviour concerns, transition practices, and barriers to implementation. Dependent t-tests were performed to evaluate differences between the implementation and perceived importance of transition practices. Results from the survey indicated that parents have a number of behavioural concerns as their child enters kindergarten. Levels of implementation and perceived importance of kindergarten transition activities varied, but parents rated significantly higher levels of perceived importance compared to implementation for 26 of the 28 transition activities. Results are discussed with regard to previous research, study limitations and strengths, and implications for future practice and research.

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Investigating the relationship between perceived social support and parent self-efficacy in parents of preschool-aged children (2012)

The relationship between perceived social support and parent self-efficacy was investigated in this study. The concept of self-efficacy as defined by Bandura was explored and the concept of perceived social support examined. It was hypothesized that high levels of perceived social support would be related to high levels of parent self-efficacy. Participants were 77 parents of children 2 to 5 years who had not yet started kindergarten. Parent self-efficacy was measured using the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSOC; Gibaud-Wallston & Wandersman, 1978). Parents’ perceived social support was measured through the Social Provisions Scale (SPS; Cutrona & Russell, 1987). The shortened Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10; Cohen & Williamson, 1988) was used to determine the levels of parents’ general life stress. The possibility of a stress-moderated model was explored and analyzed using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) software. A significant positive relationship between social support and parent self-efficacy was noted as were significant negative relationships between stress and social support and stress and parent self-efficacy. There was no significant difference in the social support and parent self-efficacy relationship based on the levels of stress (moderated model). There was significant mediation of the social support/parent self-efficacy relationship by stress. Including stress in the regression accounted for 34% of the variance in parent self-efficacy scores (compared to 15% when only social support was included). The present study discusses the benefit of social support programs for families with preschool-aged children within a specific population.

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Caregivers’ perceptions of social capital within their neighbourhood (2010)

Children do not grow up in a vacuum. For this reason, the examination of children’s environments and relationships within those environments is important to understanding human development. Social capital – a sense of connection, trust, and solidarity with others – has been identified as an important variable in neighbourhoods. Researchers are actively seeking to understand how neighbourhood interactions influence families, but there are important methodological considerations to be made. Given that parents play a key role in children’s lives, it is important to discover how much their perception of social capital may differ from other members of the community. The purpose of the present study was to examine social capital from the perspective of caregivers of young children. Structured phone interviews were used to explore neighbourhood attachment, social cohesion, informal social control, and other aspects of social capital within a British Columbia community. Responses for caregivers of children ages zero to five were compared to two groups: a sample of caregivers of children older than five years old; and a non-caregiver sample. The presence of significant differences in the experiences of these variables between these groups was examined. Results indicated no statistically significant differences in perceptions of social capital between caregivers and non-caregivers for social cohesion, informal social control, or intergenerational closure. However, some small differences did exist in reported neighbourhood attachment and neighbour exchanges. The present study did not provide evidence that it would be necessary to survey parent populations separately for estimations of social capital within a community.

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Children's perspectives of safety in their neighbourhood (2010)

The main purpose of this study was to explore, understand, and describe children’s perspectives of safety in their neighbourhood. Participants included 15 children aged 7 to 9 years, who lived in a neighbourhood in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia characterized by high crime rate and characteristics associated with high vulnerability. The methodology used was symbolic interactionism. Data collection included individual and collective drawing activities and semi-structured group interviews conducted across three group sessions. Field notes and memos were used to document the data analysis process, in addition to peer debriefing sessions. A constant comparison method guided the coding, categorization, and analysis of all data, which were reviewed by a peer audit. Through the social interaction in groups, children co-constructed the meanings of safety, enriching the discussions and expanding the findings. Two interrelated core categories emerged: protective conditions that serve to help the children prevent or avoid risky events. Protective conditions were associated with places and people the children perceived as protective and with protective actions taken and protective accessories used to prevent harm. Risky events included neighbourhood disorder, crime, contact with strangers, and accidents. The fear of exposure to such events could result in harm and, consequently, damage children’s sense of well-being. The dynamic relationship between the obverse meanings of safety -safe and unsafe- contributed to children’s understanding of this concept. It is suggested that the social context where the children live and the social interaction among participants shaped their perspectives of safety. While examples of extreme dangerous situations, descriptions of safety rules taught by adults, and media violence illustrated children’s “negative” perspectives of safety, a few participants indicated that supportive relationships promoted sense of security. Implications of these findings for parents, psychologists, and other professionals working with children suggest efforts to (a) understand and recognize the benefits and risks of teaching children strategies to protect themselves, (b) promote positive and stable relationships within the child’s proximal environments (family, school, and neighbourhood), and (c) reduce situations in the neighbourhood associated with disorder as children perceive themselves as unable to maintain their sense of well-being.

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Parent-child play interactions in immigrant South-Asian families (2010)

In this study South Asian immigrant parent-child play interactions and parents’ perceptions of the role of play in their children’s development were examined. Most studies regarding play were conducted in North America; however only a few studies focused on immigrants. This study used an ethnographic approach and had two phases. In the first phase participant observations were conducted with thirteen parents and their children in a drop-in centre and a staff member from the drop-in centre was interviewed. In the second phase, two families were observed in their home environment, semi-structured interviews were conducted with the parents and the mothers completed calendar logs on their children’s activities. The findings from both the drop-in centre and the families’ homes suggested that there were two main approaches to play and development. The first was a directed approach to play with a focus on educational play activities, and an emphasis on cognitive development. At the centre some parents stayed physically close to their children and focused on structured art activities and alphabet or number toys. The second approach was a natural approach to play in which the parents did not guide their children during play, and believed that in order to learn children should make their own decisions regarding with what and with whom to play. At the centre some mothers spent most of their time socializing with other mothers while the children played by themselves or occasionally with other children. There were also differences in the play patterns in Canada and India, and the parents found themselves caught between those two contexts. In their own culture and tradition parents did not play much with their children because there were always other play partners close by such as neighbors, cousins, siblings, friends and grandparents. However, in Canada the parents were influenced by what they heard in the centre regarding the “learning through play” philosophy and how parents should devote time to play with their children.

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Reading comprehension skills of grade 7 students who are learning English as a second language (2010)

Reading comprehension is a multi-dimensional process that includes the reader, the text, and factors associated with the activity of reading. Most research and theories of comprehension are based primarily on research conducted with monolingual English speakers (L1). Thus, it is important to investigate the cognitive and linguistic factors that have an influence on reading comprehension of English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) speakers, especially during the higher grades, when there is a shift from “learning to read” to” reading to learn”. This study examined the cognitive aspects of reading comprehension among L1 and ESL speakers in the seventh grade. The performance of both groups was compared and the role of relevant processes, including, memory, phonological awareness, morphological and syntactic awareness, word reading and fluency was assessed. Three comprehension groups were examined: (1) children with poor comprehension in the absence of word reading difficulties, (2) children with poor word reading and poor comprehension, and (3) children with good word reading and comprehension abilities. ESL and the L1 students in grade 7 performed in a similar way on all the reading comprehension measures, word reading and underlying cognitive measures. Only on two language related measures, syntactic awareness and working memory for words, the L1 students performed better than the ESL. Similar prevalence of reading comprehension subgroups was found for ESL and L1 students, with under 2 percent of students classified as reading disabled. The profile of students with poor comprehension was presented as well as profile of students with poor reading skills. Implications for identification of reading comprehension subgroups and for reading comprehension programs were discussed. In addition, the role of the school psychologist in relation to reading comprehension skills was presented.

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