First-aid training for children on autism spectrum amongst funded grad student research

How can children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) effectively be taught first-aid skills?

This is the question that Brittney Sureshkumar, a master’s student in Applied Disability Studies, plans to answer with the help of her Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship.

“According to the World Health Organization, unintentional injury is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among children and youth, and is responsible for approximately 950,000 deaths of individuals under the age of eighteen around the world every year,” Sureshkumar says. “Children and youth with ASD are at a greater risk for injury, as it may be more difficult for them to identify and respond safely in a dangerous situation. My research will contribute to the existing body of research on this topic in the hopes of assisting researchers, clinicians, teachers and caregivers when determining how to best help children and youth with ASD to perform first-aid skills.”

Sureshkumar will compare the effectiveness of written instructions and a video model to teach first-aid skills to children and youth with ASD in a training setting, such as Brock’s ADS clinic. She plans to subsequently assess the skill in naturalistic settings, such as home or school, to evaluate if the training was not only effective in the clinic but if the skills learned will be able to transfer to a ‘real-world’ situation.

She plans to recruit children and youth between the ages of eight and 18 years old who have a diagnosis of ASD who have no experience with first-aid training and are able to read simple five to seven word sentences. She hopes her research will result in increased independence for children and youth with ASD, teach awareness of safe and unsafe situations, and help reduce every day safety risks.

Sureshkumar is one of 14 master’s students and three doctoral students who received a total of $470,000 in SSHRC funding.

“Brittney is a phenomenal student and very deserving of this recognition from SSHRC,” says Sureshkumar’s supervisor and Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Disability Studies Kimberley Zonneveld. “Since joining my research lab in the fall of 2019, she has proven to be a great asset to my research team. She is hardworking, extremely devoted to her studies and is always willing to help her fellow labmates with their research projects. I have no doubt she will do wonderful things in her career down the road.”

Sureshkumar is honoured to be a recipient of a SSHRC scholarship.

“This funding allows me to further enhance my research, scholarly and practical skills, and also allows me to fully concentrate on my studies in the field of behaviour analysis,” she says. “With this financial assistance, I will also be in a position to disseminate the major findings of this project at local, national, and international conferences, and submit my findings for publication, which will also give me great experience with the peer-review process involved in publishing research.”

Diane Dupont, Interim Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, says Sureshkumar and all the recipients of SSHRC funding are an excellent example of the quality of research being conducted by graduate students at the University.

“Brock’s graduate students are committed to expanding the scholarly knowledge in their subject areas,” she says. “An investment in their studies from SSHRC is indicative of their potential as the researchers and scientists of the future.” 

Recipients of the SSHRC Funding

SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships

Victoria Dykstra, Psychology, “The influence of friends and peers on lie-telling during adolescence.”
Lisa Whittingham, Child and Youth Studies, “Examining factors involved in police decision-making regarding persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral

Julie Gemuend, Interdisciplinary Humanities, “On Becoming World: A Reimagining of the Material Self.”

Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s

Melissa Blackburn, Child and Youth Studies, “Plagued by Perfectionism: Competitive Dancers, Psychopathology and the Role of Self-Compassion.”
Zabrina Downton, Social Justice and Equity Studies, “Rethinking Medicalised Understandings of Recovery: From Discourse to Dilemma.”
Jessica Falk, Social Justice and Equity Studies, “The Intersection of Xenophobia, White Supremacy, and Colonialism in the 2019 Dismissal of Don Cherry: A Critical Discourse Analysis.”
Nadia Ganesh, Psychology, “The Role of Activation of Black Female Stereotypes in Explaining Why Black (vs. White) Female Rape Victims Receive More Negative Consequences for their Rape.”
Julia Hamill, Geography, “Molida, that’s Shimshali food: Multilocality, food talk and the constitution of place-based identity in Shimshal, Pakistan.”
Sarah Morningstar, Social Justice and Equity Studies, “Compassion fatigue and burnout in poverty-reduction work.”
Haley Myatt, “Child and Youth Studies, “Taking the Lead: Evaluating Student Leadership in Atlantic Canadian Secondary Schools.”
Kostyn Petrunick, English, “Anthropocenic Poetics in Dionne Brand’s Inventory and Juliana Spahr’s The Transformation.”
Anna Sauchuk, Classics, “Perpetual Faith: Early Christian Martyrdom in the Roman Empire.”
Nicole Sinha, Child and Youth Studies, “Learning challenges or lack of focus? The role of attention in acquiring reading skill.”
Brittney Sureshkumar, Applied Disability Studies, “A Comparison of Written Instructions and Video Modeling to Teach First Aid Skills to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
Natalie Tacuri, Child and Youth Studies, “From Artists to Athletes: Examining Perceptions of Dance as a Sport in Ontario Universities.”
Sophia Thierry, Psychology, “Children’s sensitivity to facial cues of trustworthiness when forming first impressions of child faces.”
Kristen Young, Applied Disability Studies, “Integrating a Behavioural Skills Training Framework into a Mobile Application to Provide Training to Volunteers Working with a Neurodiverse Population.”

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