Developing a task switching training game for children with a rare genetic syndrome linked to intellectual disability

Nigel Robb, Annalu Waller, Kate Woodcock

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Background. The ability to rapidly switch between tasks is important in a variety of contexts. Training in task switching may be particularly valuable for children with intellectual disability (ID), specifically ID linked to genetic syndromes such as Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS). We have developed a cognitive training game for children with PWS and performed a pilot evaluation of the programme to inform future game development. Here, we describe and critically reflect on the development and pilot evaluation process.

Methods. Several novel aspects of our approach are highlighted in this paper, including the involvement (in various roles) of children with a rare genetic syndrome (PWS) in the development and evaluation of the software (participatory design) and the development of a matched control, or placebo version of the game for use in the pilot evaluation.

Results. Children with PWS were capable of contributing to the design and development of a cognitive training game in various roles. In the subsequent pilot evaluation, playing the active version of the game was associated with greater improvement in task switching performance than playing the matched control (placebo) version of the game. However, attrition was an issue during both the design phase and the pilot evaluation.

Conclusions. The lessons learned from our work have relevance in a wide range of contexts, such as the development of future cognitive training games; the evaluation of serious games in general; and the involvement of end-users with cognitive disabilities and/or rare syndromes in the design and development of software.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-179
JournalSimulation and Gaming
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2019


  • cognitive training
  • executive function
  • game design
  • intellectual disabilities
  • participatory design
  • task switching


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