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Federal funding helps Dal research team support teachers of students with mental health disorders

Posted by Media Centre on March 9, 2016 in News, Research, Science
(Stock photo.)
(Stock photo.)

(March 9th, 2016 -- Halifax, NS) – The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) eHealth Innovation Partnership Program (eHIPP) recently funded a Nova Scotia-based online education program geared toward providing grades 1-12 teachers with information that supports students with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs).

The Teacher Help program, led by Dr. Penny Corkum from Dalhousie University, was one of 22 funded projects announced on March 3rd, 2016. It was the only successful application from Nova Scotia and was ranked number 1 in the Canadian-wide competition. The project received ~$300,000.00 in funding from CIHR, which was industry matched for a total of ~$600,000.00.

NDDs include disorders such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Learning Disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Teacher Help program provides information about evidence-based interventions that teachers can use directly in the classroom. In addition, the program provides guidance through a coach on how to implement these interventions.

“Research shows that early intervention and a supportive school environment are critical for academic and life success for those with neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Dr. Corkum, a registered psychologist and professor with the Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience, Psychiatry, and Pediatrics at Dalhousie. “However, teachers often want more information and supports to help them provide the best learning environment to these children. This program has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of these disorders to the Canadian health system and create lasting benefits for teachers, youth, and their families.”

The Teacher Help program brings together Canadian researchers and clinicians who specialize in NDDs, knowledge users and industry to develop, evaluate, and disseminate an innovative and novel approach to supporting classroom teachers who work with children with NDDs. Future versions of this program will include help for teachers working with children with other mental health disorders. The project was developed in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Dr. Corkum and the research team are partnering with Velsoft® Training Materials, an internationally known software company out of New Glasgow, to build this program. Teachers in Nova Scotia are currently testing the platform. A Canada-wide evaluation of this program will happen next school year. If the program is successful, Dalhousie University’s Industry Liaison and Innovation will help to make this program sustainable over time so teachers can use it across Canada to help children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

Quick Facts    

  • The joint initiative of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development has dedicated $13.8M in funding for 22 new innovative eHealth projects.

  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) eHealth Innovation Partnership Program (eHIPP) supports research that tests eHealth solutions in real-world contexts focused on youth mental health and on seniors with complex care needs at home.

  • Academic partners include: Dr. Isabel Smith from Dalhousie University, Dr. Melissa McGonnell from Mount Saint Vincent University, and Dr. Nezihe Elik and Dr. Terry Bennet from McMaster University. Also, Dr. Pantelis Andreou from Dalhousie University is the statistician on this grant.

  • Teacher Help has partnered with three national associations for NDDs: Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance (CADDRA), Learning Disability Association of Canada (LDAC) and Autism Canada. They will provide input on the content of the Teacher Help program and in-kind contributions to this research.

  • Additional partners include Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts Institute, Canadian Family Advisory Network, Maternal Infant Child Youth Research Network. Other partners are the Canadian Psychological Association Section of Educational and School Psychologists and the Canadian Association of School Psychologists.

  • Teacher Help will partner with NeuroDevNet throughout the duration of this research. NeuroDevNet is a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), dedicated to understanding brain development and to helping children and their families overcome the challenges of neurodevelopmental disorders.

  • The Advisory board includes health care providers and researchers from across Canada, representing a range of disciplines, including psychology/education: Rosemary Tannock (UOT), Janet Mah (UBC), Judith Weiner (OISE), Rhonda Martinussen (OISE), Andre Benoit (DAL), Pamela Blotnicky-Gallant (DAL), Ainsley Boudreau (DAL), Margaret McKinnon (St. FX); psychiatry: Terry Bennett (McMasterU); pediatrics: Wendy Roberts (SickKids), Sarah Shea/John LeBlanc (DAL/IWK), Marilyn MacPherson/Tracey Williams/Stephanie Aubrey (Truro Pediatrics); Occupational Therapy: Sandy Hodgetts (UOFA); Speech-Language Pathology: Joanne Volden (UOFA); Social Work: Lucyna Lach (MU).

  • Mental health problems affect up to one million Canadian youth and their families. However, few of these individuals (~20%) receive the support they need (Kirby, 2013; Kutcher & McLuckie, 2013).

  • Neurodevelopmental disorders are a specific subgroup of mental health disorders with onset in the developmental period. NDDs typically manifest early in development and are characterized by developmental deficits that produce impairments of personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning.

  • Almost all teachers (97%) who participated in the Canadian Teachers’ Federation survey reported needing additional knowledge and skills about mental health in youth in order to work effectively with these students. Of the mental health disorders commonly experienced by youth, neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) have been identified as the most pressing classroom concern (as stated in Froess-Germain & Riel, 2012).

Media Contact

Nikki Comeau
Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Science

(902) 494-8443  


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