Dr. Sarah Macoun

Dr. Sarah Macoun
Associate Professor

Dr. Sarah Macoun is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Victoria. Prior to joining the department, Dr. Macoun obtained her PhD from the University of Victoria in 2001 and worked as a practicing Registered Psychologist within schools for over 15 years. She has been a research fellow with the Centre for Youth and Society since 2012. In addition to her work at UVic, Dr. Macoun continues to engage in consultation with families, schools, community agencies, and professionals and is heavily involved in the training and supervision of new psychologists.

Dr. Macoun's background is in pediatric neuropsychology and she continues to maintain a small clinical practice, currently focused on Autism diagnostics. She also continues to advise school teams in supporting children and youth with complex needs. She primarily works with children and youth with developmental disabilities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Very Preterm Infants, etc. Recently, Dr. Macoun has been developing and spearheading the empirical validation of Dino Island, a table-based cognitive intervention for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Dino Island is a “serious game” that is designed to remediate deficits in attention and executive functions using direct cognitive training. This approach capitalizes on the rewarding properties of gameplay supported by an ‘interventionist’ who facilitates the development of children’s problem-solving skills to help improve their performance. The Dino Island game uses two validated neuroscientific approaches to improving cognitive function:

  1. process-specific training, which involves massed practiced with hierarchically graded activities, delivered in an adaptive format, to alter brain systems at the neural level, as well as behaviours related to these cognitive functions and;
  2. compensatory training, which involves instruction in metacognitive strategies to improve children’s strategic problem-solving skills and support generalization of the Dino Island games into the real world.

Project partners include the University of Victoria, Cummings School of Medicine (Alberta), The Center for Child Development, The Uncomplicated Family (Calgary), HealthTech Connex’s Centre for Neurological Studies (Surrey), the Child Development Foundation of BC (Surrey), Surrey School District (Surrey), Sooke School District (Victoria), and Woodview Autism and Mental Health Services (Ontario). 

Dino is designed to be delivered in home, school and community settings, with the goal of making cognitive intervention accessible and affordable for all.. Our broad goals are to (along with our academic, industry, and community partners) improve treatment options and outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families, enhance the evidence-base for scientifically credible attention/EF interventions, maximize intervention accessibility by establishing a treatment that is deliverable across a range of settings/contexts, and produce a sustainable product that is widely accessible and affordable. 

— Dr. Sarah Macoun

To date, Dr. Macoun and her team have implemented the Dino Island intervention in numerous settings and across a range of developmental disability diagnoses. Recently, Dr. Macoun's team has joined forces with BC Children’s Hospital to explore the effects of the Dino Island intervention in children with congenital cardiac disease. She also has partnerships and grant proposals under review with the MAYO Clinic to explore the effects of the Dino Island intervention on children who have been treated with cranial irradiation for brain cancers. She has established a new partnership with Pediatric Critical Care and HeathTech Connex, to evaluate the use of Dino Island in children recovering from Cerebral Malaria in East African villages.

For more information on Dino Island, please visit http://uvicdinoisland.cogtrain.ca/

Recent publications

Halliday, D., Kim, Y., MacDonald, S., Garcia-Barrera, M., Hundza, S. & Macoun, S. (2021). Intraindividual variability in executive and motor control tasks in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 1-11. doi.org/10.1080/13803395.2021.1965097.

Macoun, S., Schneider, I., Bedir, B., Sheehan, J. & Sung, A. (2021). Pilot Study of an Attention and Executive Function Cognitive Intervention in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 51, 1-11. doi.org/10.1007/s10803-020-04723-w.

Macoun, S., Pyne, S., MacSween, J., Lewis, J. & Sheehan, J. (2020). Feasibility and potential benefits of an attention and executive function intervention on metacognition in a mixed pediatric sample. Applied Neuropsychology: Child, 1-13. doi.org/10.1080/21622965.2020.1794867.

More publications