Dr Mark Boyes is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Psychology at Curtin University. His research investigates risk and protective factors associated with psychological and educational outcomes for vulnerable children. The ultimate aim of his research is to design and evaluate evidence-based interventions promoting mental health and positive educational outcomes for children and adolescents.
Currently his research is focused on mental health in children with reading and language difficulties, as well as the psychosocial impacts of HIV/AIDS on South African children and adolescents.
Reading impairment (dyslexia) is the most common specific learning difficulty in Australia. Approximately 5-10% of Australian children have substantial difficulties in reading and spelling, despite adequate intellectual abilities and classroom instruction. These children are at elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes; both emotional problems (e.g. anxiety and depression) and behavioural difficulties (e.g. conduct problems). Literacy difficulties are also substantially over-represented in youth suicides and prison populations. Given these negative outcomes, it is imperative to develop and evaluate interventions to promote mental health in children with reading difficulties and reduce the psychological, social, and economic burden of dyslexia.
The transition from primary to secondary school is a particularly stressful period for children with reading difficulties, due to the increased educational demands and expectations placed on children regarding quantity and quality of reading and writing. In this project we will evaluate a mental health promotion programme for children with dyslexia in their final year of primary school. The programme specifically aims to improve child self-esteem, resilience, emotion regulation, adaptive coping, and assertiveness prior to the transition to secondary school. A pilot randomized controlled trial will be conducted to test the programme. Additionally, the acceptability of the programme will be evaluated through in depth interviews with children who attended the programme.
The research project will be conducted in partnership with the Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation, which has provided vital support to West Australian children with reading and learning difficulties for over 40 years
Co-Investigators: A/Prof Suze Leitao, Dr Peta Dzidic, Dr Mary Claessen, Dr Nicholas Badcock & Mandy Nayton