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GPRC psychology graduate Kara Witow has taken her mental health research in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on the road to the national stage.

She presented findings from her SSHRC-funded study, Barriers to Organized Sports Participation Among Children with ADHD, at the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Student Innovation Showcase in Ottawa on November 5 is set to present at the Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance (CADDRA) conference in Calgary on November 9.

With two research presentations under her belt, Witow aspires to publish her research and looks forward to a bright future in the field of educational psychology. Witow’s research examined barriers faced by children with ADHD when participating in organized sport.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids with ADHD struggle to participate in some of the same activities as their friends,” she said. “Maybe they have trouble focusing on the coach’s directions or connecting with their teammates. There are so many benefits to being involved in physical activity, so I really wanted to understand what exactly was stopping these kids from having a better experience.”

ADHD, one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood psychiatric disorders, is a medical condition that affects attention and self-control. Children with ADHD sometimes experience learning delays and behavioural problems.

Witow’s research has yet to undergo peer review or publication, but the early findings she presented in Calgary and Ottawa are fascinating. Witow found that, although children with ADHD in her sample study participated in organized sport at about the same rate as children without ADHD, they often faced social and cognitive barriers preventing them from fully participating.

For example, they were more likely to have difficulty learning the rules of the game and making friends with teammates. Witow notes that current literature indicates children with ADHD are more likely than their peers to experience obesity and often lag behind in motor skill development. Participation in organized sports can play a role in reducing the occurrence of both issues.

Witow’s research was funded by the Undergraduate Student Research Award, which was presented to GPRC students with exceptional community-based research proposals. Witow decided to submit her work for presentation after encouragement from Dr. Connie Korpan, her research mentor. The student researcher said she was “taken aback” upon learning her paper had been accepted for presentation at both conferences.

“I’m really excited to represent GPRC,” Witow said. “I want to show people that there are opportunities to conduct research outside of a larger institution.”

Being able to conduct research while completing her undergraduate degree was an “invaluable” experience for Witow. “It was a great opportunity to take all of my classroom work together and actually apply it,” she said. “It was tough at the beginning, but that experience of taking what I had done in exercises and assignments and putting it into action was phenomenal.”

Witow acknowledges that more exploration is needed on the relationship between physical activity and children’s mental health. As she proceeds with her education, she hopes to investigate the matter even further.

“I want to use this research experience as a jumping off point,” she said. “It would be neat to look further into how these barriers can be addressed so that children with ADHD are better able to participate in sport in the same way their peers are.”

L R Kara Witow Student Researcher Don Gnatiuk President and CEO of GPRC Chris Warkentin MP for Grande Prairie Mackenzie 640x473

Article provided by Grande Prairie Regional College.