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Laidlaw Centre Home | Joan Peskin | Patricia Ganea | Janette Pelletier | Richard Volpe



Research Spotlight


“Why doesn’t her Gruffee look like mine?”


Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) demonstrate improved communication skills using a unique computer-based task in Joan Peskin's research —Thinking about a reader’s mind: Fostering communicative clarity in the compositions of youth with autism spectrum disorders

A critical component of effective communication is the ability to consider the knowledge state of one’s audience, yet individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have difficulty representing the mental states of others. In the present study, youth with high-functioning ASD were trained to consider their reader’s knowledge states in their compositions using a novel computer-based task. After two training trials, participants who received visual feedback from a confederate demonstrated significantly greater communicative clarity on the training measure compared to a control group. The improvements from training transferred to similar and very different tasks, and were maintained approximately six weeks post-intervention. These results provide support for the sustained efficacy of a rapid and motivating communication intervention for youth with high-functioning ASD.Professor Joan Peskin


Grossman, M., Peskin, J, & San Juan, V. (2013). Thinking about a reader’s mind: Fostering communicative clarity in the compositions of youth with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43, (10), 2376-2392

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When is a Kangaroo a Kangaroo? Using picture books to explore how children learn



Patricia Ganea explores how picture books can help us to understand children’s learning processes

Picture books can be a rich source of information about the world, in particular about things that we cannot learn through direct observation.  We generally assume that that young children learn useful information from the books to which they are exposed and that they generalize that information beyond the pages of the book.  Our research examines this assumption by asking what type of features in picture books facilitate or impede young children’s ability to acquire and extend new knowledge from picture book experiences. Our results show that children are more likely to learn and transfer information to the real world from books that are realistic (both in images and story context). We examine children’s learning of language and science knowledge from picture books, with the goal of identifying factors that facilitate or impede this process.Professor Patricia Ganea


Ganea, P. A., Ma, L., & DeLoache, J. S. (2011). Young children's learning and transfer of biological information from picture books to real animals. Child Development, 82, 1421-1433.

Ganea, P. A., Pickard, M. & DeLoache, J. S.  (2008). Transfer between picture books and the real world by very young children.  Journal of Cognition and Development, 9, 46-66.

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Security and natural curiosity central to kids' learning

Professor Janette Pelletier and children


University of Toronto's Edge Magazine for Research & Innovation features Jackman ICS professor and former director, Janette Pelletier, in The Brain Issue: Winter 2013

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Brain injury survivors and their families benefit from programs that foster community participation

ABI Compendium cover


Professor Richard Volpe’s long-standing interest in primary prevention of intentional and unintentional injury has led him to work closely with the healthcare community. His most recent publication, Casebook of Exemplary Evidence-Informed Programs that Foster Community Participation after Acquired Brain Injury gives healthcare service providers and policy makers a unique look at efforts that promote integration back into the community for those who have suffered an acquired brain injury. Community participation considers these individuals from a holistic perspective and includes families and caregivers in the new reality of the injured. This book reveals the changes to complex systems necessary to improve ABI survivors’ quality of life. Professor Richard Volpe

“A consistent practice principle of exemplary programs that foster community participation is not that they empower individuals, rather they organize their efforts to enable survivors to obtain and to exercise power in their lives. People cannot be given power. They may take it if they are enabled to so choose.” (p.306)

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