Web-based learning simulations to help youths cope when a parent or sibling has a

Period of Performance: 09/30/2009 - 09/29/2011


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Coping Steps, LLC
Indianapolis, IN 46220
Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Traumatic brain injury (TBI) often has a devastating impact on victims and on family members. Adult caregivers can turn to different resources to help them cope, but uninjured youths rarely receive much assistance. Informed by a theory of coping competence in children and adolescents, this SBIR Phase I application proposes that Coping Steps LLC will design, develop, and evaluate a web-based product called CopingSim-TBI. The product's core feature will be a set of learning simulations to help uninjured youths aged 12 to 17 years understand and adapt to the reality of parental or sibling TBI, bolster their coping skills, and prevent behavioral/emotional problems. The goal of this Phase I research will be for Coping Steps to demonstrate the feasibility and pedagogical/technical merit of creating one fully-functional simulation and to present it on a purpose-made web platform. This research has three aims. Aim 1: Coping Steps will rely on focus groups to assess the psychological needs and develop educational materials for youths facing the challenge of understanding TBI, dealing with its impact on their lives, and relating to their injured relative. Aim 2: Utilizing the educational materials developed in Aim 1, Coping Steps will create a sample learning simulation, in which youths will be able to play the role of a virtual character involved in a short pedagogical story. This simulation, which will be delivered on a platform that will be accessible wherever the Internet is available, will be developed in two stages. A branching architecture will be used first to determine how youths respond to a simple prototype in terms of attractiveness and immersion (i.e., identification with the story's main character and relevance to their individual challenges). This will enable Coping Steps to improve the product's content and presentation before producing a fully functional sample with a generative algorithm that will provide a very believable interactive experience in 3D. To control development time and costs, the sample simulation will be built with available software programs. Aim 3: Coping Steps will rely on uninjured youths to evaluate the sample simulation created in Aim 2. Phase II studies will allow for full product development;refinement of the web platform to provide support for distance learning, live or online supervision, and synchronous/asynchronous communication;and evaluation of the product and platform's suitability, efficacy, and commercial viability before CopingSim-TBI will be marketed to hospitals, outpatient services, and non- profit organizations. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: This research will design, develop, and evaluate web-based learning simulations that integrate educational materials for uninjured youths aged 12 to 17 years who have a parent or sibling with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a leading cause of long-term disability and death in the United States. Aimed at bolstering positive coping strategies and at preventing behavioral/emotional problems in uninjured youths, these simulations will provide a much-needed service, as there are few resources to help young people cope when a loved one has a TBI. This service will contribute to public health efforts aimed at preventing or minimizing the secondary complications associated with TBI.