Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Learning About Research From the Inside Out

My little straphanger
I'm a big fan of research--it's so crucial to so many aspects of our lives. Designing safety standards for car seats, baby cribs, toys, our homes, our food. Creating safe & effective medications & vaccines, treatments for health conditions & injuries. A lot of us wouldn't be alive without it. Or our lives would be a lot worse.

While I'm not a researcher, I'm happy to have the opportunity to contribute to research & I think it's a great learning opportunity for my kids to do so as well. When I was still pregnant with Linny, I joined the CHILD Study, along with 3400 other families across Canada, to contribute to research on the prediction, prevention, & treatment of chronic diseases. The study was initially designed to go from prenatal to age five, but they extended it & we were happy to continue on, now going on nine years.

Linny & I have also participated in a few other studies at UBC & SFU, one of which he even got to wear an EEG cap. Bronte hadn't had the chance to be a part of research until recently, when I signed both kids up with the UBC Early Development Research Group.

A little tactile reading practice
We got the call that both Linny & Bronte could participate in two studies with the UBC Centre for Cognitive Development & scheduled in a visit on a weekday after school. We hopped on a bus , then walked through the campus with a little climbing here & there along the way, & arrived at the research lab in about 45 minutes. The kids both did two different computer "games" as part of the research, which related to kids' ability to estimate quantity. I relaxed in the waiting room, & they were all finished within about a half hour. Afterward, each child was presented with a "Bachelor of Arts" certificate for participating, as well as a choice of a toy, book or t-shirt. Unsurprisingly, they both picked the cute stuffies.

I've had some interesting conversations with the kids about why research is important & how it can be used to help people have better lives. Some of the things the Linny has been exposed to in the CHILD Study, for example, has been quite useful to help him be a little more comfortable with medical procedures, since the researchers there are so patient & strive to make the experience as positive as possible. The study we participated in at UBC was completely non-invasive--just sitting at a computer with the researcher & choosing one of two things shown on the screen--but I think it's still useful to teach the kids the value of contributing in a small way to something bigger than themselves that could help other people.

If you're interested in contributing to research like this with your children, you can sign up for the Early Development Research Group online. They are always looking for participants from birth right up to early teens. This research group is part of the Psychology department at UBC, so their research doesn't involve any invasive medical tests, generally just ordinary day to day activities like talking, playing, or watching video. Their website has more information on what a typical visit looks like

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