‘M3 Program’ aims to improve quality of life for children with epilepsy

By: Gerry Rucchin
September 12, 2018

Professor Karen Bax is co-principal investigator examining whether ‘Making Mindfulness Matters’ improves the quality of life for children with epilepsy.

Professor Karen Bax is co-principal investigator examining whether ‘Making Mindfulness Matters’ improves the quality of life for children with epilepsy.

Professors Karen Bax from the Faculty of Education and Kathy Speechley from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Lawson Health Research Institute have received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study a community-based family treatment program for children with epilepsy. Their goal is to provide non-medical intervention that improves the quality of life for children who have chronic illnesses and their families.

The funding is for three years and it’s worth $459,000.

For Bax, her investigation is more than just a professional interest. It’s personal. Her older sister had epilepsy and died eight years ago.

“I feel passionate about this research,” she said. “I understand first-hand how epilepsy affected her as a child growing up and how it affected our family.”

Bax and Speechley will conduct a randomized controlled trial that will include children between four to ten years of age and their parents. They will compare forty families of children with epilepsy who will participate in a parent and child mindfulness program with 40 similar families who won’t participate in the initiative. The researchers will provide the intervention in collaboration with Epilepsy Southwestern Ontario.  

“Research has demonstrated that the impact of epilepsy extends far beyond the seizures themselves.  Evidence has shown that a large proportion of children with epilepsy may face comorbid issues, including behavioural, mental health and cognitive concerns that often go untreated, “said Bax.

The study will investigate whether ‘Making Mindfulness Matters,’ or as it’s also known – the ‘M3 Program’ – improves the quality of life for children and their families by reducing anxiety, depression, stress, and improving executive functioning.  M3 is a social emotional and mindful awareness concurrent parent and child program.

“In this program, children and parents learn to be in the present moment and to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and to those around them. This mindful moment can provide the gap needed to respond rather than simply react to difficult feelings and situations,” said Bax.

Bax added that social emotional skills are those skills which can help parents and children, in that present moment – manage thoughts, regulate feelings and behaviours, consider the perspective of others, and learn the benefits of gratitude and being kind to those around them.

“We know from previous research that mindfulness and social emotional skills have been demonstrated to improve the well-being of children and adults in a variety of ways and in a number of different circumstances,” said Bax.  “Dr. Speechley, myself and the rest of the research team hope we can demonstrate similar positive outcomes with this population.”