What is Project KIDS?31

Project KIDS is a neurodevelopmental research program based at Murdoch University. Project KIDS was co-founded by Professor Mike Anderson (Research Director) and Associate Professor Corinne Reid (Clinical Director) in 1995. Since that time more than 2500 children have helped us investigate the nature of typical and atypical neuro-developmental trajectories. Specifically we are interested in understanding the impact of premature birth, and childhood illness, injury or trauma on development.

Project KIDS also has a translational research arm. We are piloting a number of neurocognitive training programs to see whether neuro-developmental delays or deficits can be positively impacted by computer-game based brain training programs.

How is Project KIDS different from other neurodevelopmental research programs?

Project KIDS is differentiated from other neurodevelopmental assessment programs by a focus on child-centred methodology. We have created a child-friendly research space that embeds assessments and experimental tasks in play without compromising standardisation and professional standards of care. Children attend Project KIDS for 2 days and we have a more than 95% return rate for day two which suggests that children enjoy their experience with us. This game-based and developmentally responsive format enables intensive and comprehensive assessment over a full day whilst managing fatigue and motivation. All of our staff and trainees are trained in child-centred practice as well as in specialised neurodevelopmental assessment.

We take a whole of child approach to assessment. We measure brain function with MRI and with EEG recordings. We use a range of psychometric and experimental measures of verbal and non verbal reasoning, executive functioning and other abilities of interest. We also assess school achievement and social/emotional development through parental and self report questionnaires as well as through behavioural observation. Taken together these measures provide a comprehensive profile of each child rather than relying on meta-analysis of cross sectional studies using one or two measures.

Project KIDS also has a strong interdisciplinary focus. You will see from our list of collaborators that we value working with clinical psychologists, developmental psychologists, neuropsychologists, paediatricians, nurses, Aboriginal health workers, teachers and allied health professionals. Each profession brings a valuable perspective to our investigations. Each year we invite applications from trainees who may be postgraduate students, interns from overseas or practising clinicians who seek professional development in this specialist area. These partnerships also enable us to provide for the care needs of special groups of children such as children with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus or children with complex mental health issues.

Who are our collaborators?

Children born extremely preterm: Since 1999, we have worked with Dr. Noel French, Head of the Neonatal Clinical Care Unit at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women (KEMH), and his colleagues Dr. Catherine Campbell (Clinical Psychologist and a former Project KIDS trainee!) and Dr. Judy McMichael (Paediatrician).

Children with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: Since 2009 we have worked with Dr. Tim Jones, Head of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children (PMH) and his team.

Children with mental health issues: Since 2011 we have worked the Family Pathways program with the support of Dr. Simon Davies, Acting Manager, Specialist Services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

Children with neurological conditions: Since 2011 we have worked with children with a range of neurological conditions that have been referred from the State Neurosciences Unit. These children include some who have experienced illnesses such as cancer or brain tumours as well as some who have experienced accidental head injury, or prenatal exposure to alcohol or other substances.

Children with a history of trauma: Since 2012 we have also accepted referrals from DCP for children who have experienced life trauma that may have impacted their development.

Indigenous children in remote communities: Since 2005, our team has worked with a number of communities in WA and the NT, at the request of local community members.

Historically, Project KIDS had been based at Murdoch University and at the Neurocognitive Development Unit at The University of Western Australia. We still work with our colleagues from UWA including Associate Professor Allison Fox who is a neuropsychologist, and Dr. Donna Bayliss, a developmental psychologist.

Who supports our research?

Since our inception we have been fortunate to receive continuous grant funding. This funding has been provided by a range of bodies including:

  • Australian Research Council
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Telethon 7 Trust
  • FACHSIA
  • Department of Health, WA

Our program could not have succeeded without this generous ongoing support. See grants for a list of our current and recent grants

Where can you find out more?

We are happy to talk with you more about our work and about potential opportunities for collaboration and client referral. We invite you to make contact with either Professor Anderson or Associate Professor Corinne Reid by email or telephone.

If you would like to read more about our work, please follow this link to a selected list of publications.

Kids Empathic Development Scales (KEDS)

The Project KIDS team are keen to support efforts to better understand the development of empathy in children. If your team is interested in utilising our Kids Empathic Development Scales (KEDS), please complete the agreement form that can be accessed by clicking the link below. We consider applications at our weekly research team meetings and will endeavour to get back to you within two weeks. Thank you for your interest.

KEDS form

Results and Findings

If you are interested in summaries of our results and findings, please follow this link for summaries of our research.