Research indicates that without intervention social-behavioral problems of children tend to persist and escalate over time, increasing risk of negative mental health outcomes including depression, substance abuse, and delinquency. In response to the clear need for engaging, flexible, evidence-based social skills interventions, 3C developed the in-person Social Skills Group Intervention (S.S.GRIN) for use with small groups in schools and clinical settings. Study results have shown all versions of S.S.GRIN — for early childhood, grades K-2, grades 3-5, for high functioning autism, for adolescents, and a guide for parents — to significantly improve children’s peer relations, social behavior, and emotional adjustment, reducing risk of developmental psychopathology.
But social and emotional skills interventions delivered by trained providers can be costly and have limited reach. Trained providers may be scarce; scheduled meetings at schools, clinics, or other locations can be inconvenient for families and can lead them to feel stigma; and a variety of implementation factors can affect program quality.
Our challenge is to increase the influence of the proven S.S.GRIN program by extending its reach into the home environment and engaging children with an entertaining and effective online game — a computer-based interactive social tutoring system.
A digital game version of S.S.GRIN will encourage practice, standardize administration and delivery to reduce variability, reach more children, cost less than traditional interventions, and allow convenient access to reduce stigma, travel, and scheduling barriers.
To develop Adventures Aboard the S.S.GRIN, we translated the S.S.GRIN curriculum into a nine-episode digital game for children ages 7-12 who experience significant social-behavioral problems. As children navigate an engaging environment, the game presents challenges requiring them to apply specific social and emotional skills. The single-player format enables individualized feedback and multiple play paths based on player choices, and creates a safe environment for practicing fledgling skills. The software captures players’ behaviors and uses these data in real time to assess each child’s progress and determine next steps. At appropriate times S.S.GRIN provides feedback to children. Data offered to parents, providers, or teachers allows them to document each child’s progress toward specific, measurable social goals.
Our research confirmed that children who played Adventures Aboard the S.S.GRIN improved significantly more from pretest to posttest than children who did not play the game, in the domains of social literacy, social anxiety, bullying victimization, social satisfaction, psychosocial stress, and behavioral and emotional strength. Children reported very high levels of “likability” for the game. The high-quality art and engaging narrative give Adventures Aboard the S.S. GRIN a truly game-like feel.
Adventures Aboard the S.S.GRIN will be brought to market by Personalized Learning Games.