1/11/2017: The American Academy of Pediatrics and Kognito Launch Simulation to Train Pediatricians on Addressing Teen Use of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Substances

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Kognito announce the launch of Artificial Perfection: Talking to Teens about Performance Enhancement – a free, role-play simulation designed to prepare pediatricians and other child health professionals to lead real-life conversation with teens about appearance and performance-enhancing substances. Take the simulation at: aap.kognito.com.

The use of appearance and performance-enhancing substances among youth has increased tremendously over the past decade. More than 10 percent of adolescents have misused prescription stimulants for cognitive enhancement, and about 6 percent of the general high school population has used illegal steroids for appearance or strength enhancement. Physicians should be aware of the use of performance-enhancing substances by pediatric patients; be prepared to identify risk factors, signs, and symptoms; ask screening questions; and offer anticipatory guidance related to their use.

This innovative simulation engages users in role-play conversations with three virtual and emotionally responsive patients presenting with signs of appearance and performance-enhancing substances. As the health professional in the simulation, users choose what to say to the virtual patient, how to respond to their hesitations, resistance, and misconceptions, and how to use motivational interviewing techniques to motivate them to change their behavior. At the end of each role-play conversation, a personalized reporting dashboard provides users with feedback on their performance in the conversation to support their ongoing pursuit of skills building. Continuing Medical Education is available for the simulation.

“Health care providers are often not aware of the prevalence of use of appearance and performance-enhancing agents in their patient panels. The goal of this Kognito simulation is to raise awareness of this issue among pediatricians, and to enhance comfort in recognizing and addressing these issues in their adolescent population,” said pediatrician Michele LaBotz, MD, FAAP, the lead subject matter expert for the AAP on the simulation’s development. “Pediatricians are in the best position to address patient and family concerns regarding use of these substances in a confidential and sensitive fashion, and completion of these virtual conversations will increase providers’ knowledge of those substances currently in most common use.”

Kognito, using its simulation technology platform, in collaboration with the AAP and leading experts including Dr. LaBotz, Don Hooton, Pamela Gonzalez, MD, FAAP, and Joseph Chorley, MD, FAAP, in addition to a group of practicing pediatricians, developed the Artificial Perfection simulation. Kognito has collaborated with the AAP in the past on developing the award-winning Change Talk: Childhood Obesity app.

“Helping curb the growing use of performance-enhancing substances by preparing health professionals to effectively talk with teens is another compelling example of how the power of conversation can be harnessed to improve health,” said Ron Goldman, Co-founder and CEO of Kognito. “Our efforts with the AAP to address childhood obesity, substance use screening, and now performance-enhancing substances, all underscore the growing opportunity to use our Conversation Platform™ to prepare health professionals to affect sustainable changes in patient attitude, skills, and behaviors in a cost effective, engaging and timely manner.”

Artificial Perfection: Talking to Teens about Performance Enhancement is available for free and can be accessed online at: aap.kognito.com.
The development of Artificial Perfection was made possible by support from the US Food and Drug Administration. Information included in the simulation represents the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics or leading experts and not necessarily that of the FDA.

About AAP
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety, and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. For more information, visit http://www.aap.org.

Read the full article here.

11/30/2016: Journal of mHealth: Kognito’s Case Study about Harnessing the Power of Conversations with Virtual Humans to Change Health Behaviors

We are excited to share a newly published article in the Journal of mHealth that discusses the work of Kognito and how we are changing health behaviors through role-play simulations with virtual humans.

This article provides readers with an in-depth look at Kognito’s behavior change model as well as its overall approach to improving health behaviors. Our behavior change model draws upon components of game mechanics, virtual human simulation technology, and evidence-based instructional design. It also incorporates the principles of social-cognitive theory and neuroscience, including motivational interviewing, emotional regulation, empathy, and mindfulness.

Numerous longitudinal studies have shown that users who complete Kognito simulations demonstrate statistically significant and sustained increases in being confident and competent to lead real-life health conversations.

The article can be accessed at: http://mhealth.amegroups.com/article/view/12530/12915

11/18/2016: Managing Post-election Emotional Distress

Karen Carlucci, LCSW, Director of Mental Health Strategic Partnerships and Brian Nido, Director of Client Experience

All of us at Kognito have been processing the outcome of the presidential election, along with the rest of the country. It seems the complex emotional reactions were rather unexpected, adding to a collective sense of uncertainty. We are aware that this is a critical time in many settings, specifically PK-12 and Higher Education schools, as there may be an overwhelming swell of emotions and concerns amongst students, faculty, and staff.

We want to ensure that everyone in your school community, from the school nurse to resident advisors, are prepared to respond to any emotional distress that a student may be facing during these times. We know that having certain resources readily available can make a significant difference when faced with an increased need to provide student support. Our education clients are equipped with Kognito’s easy to access role-play simulations that empower faculty, staff, and students to readily help connect students experiencing emotional distress with support services.  If your school currently has access, we encourage the use of these simulations, including our emotional wellness programs such as At-Risk, LGBTQ on Campus, Veterans On-Campus, as well as our bullying prevention programs Step In, Speak Up! and Friend2Friend. (learn more at  https://kognito.com/products)

As we gear up for the new semester and new year, our Client Experience team is ready to assist with suggested use cases and implementation ideas that you may want to try in these next few weeks. We wanted to share a few below:

For Faculty/Staff Use:

  • Include simulation information into upcoming faculty workshops or as a recommended professional development offering
  • Encourage use during staff/faculty meetings and in-service days
  • Promote re-training (or re-certification) for individuals to start in the second half of the school year

For Student Use:

  • Suggest or assign as coursework for students to start the new year
  • Encourage Resident Advisors, Fraternity and Sorority Life, and Student Government to adopt this into their training regiment
  • Partner with traditionally overlooked groups such as student employees, athletic clubs, sororities/fraternities, study abroad groups, international students, multi-cultural awareness organizations, and LGBTQ clubs

As a reminder, the Kognito team is here to help and to be an additional resource to you and your communities. Please do not hesitate to contact your Account Manager if you would like additional dissemination ideas or simply to share what you may be observing in your school environment.

If you currently do not have access and would like to learn more about the Kognito simulations listed above, please contact info@kognito.com.

11/11/2016: Talking About Talking with a High School Counselor

Jennifer Spiegler, SVP Strategic Partnerships, Kognito

In addition to leading for Kognito’s PK-12 practice, I am the parent of a teenager and once in a while my worlds collide. That happened in a recent conversation with the guidance counselor at my son’s school. I loved the metaphor she chose when she said, “Sometimes using the right words is like watering a plant.” The effect of her words on me was instantaneous. Yes, it’s just like that. We’ve all seen it – language that either helps the listener to flourish or causes them to wither. That plant-watering image has stayed with me for weeks; its simplicity makes it an easy touchstone for remembering that you always have a choice with your words – to water or to wither. I even thought about it yesterday while watering our much neglected houseplants. The water hits the soil; there’s a slight shudder as the water soaks the roots and rises in their stems.

As a parent, spouse, friend, or colleague I can easily lose sight of this essential truth – words matter. Using them consistently well – so that we are watering instead of withering – takes practice and mindful vigilance. As the employee of a company that has dedicated itself to changing the way people use conversations to promote positive change, you’d think I’d be good at this by now. Well, the reality is: not always. I’m reminded anew as I demonstrate a Kognito role-play conversation between a high school teacher, Mr. Lyons, and Rene, a virtual student he suspects may be cutting herself. Rene bristles and stiffens defensively when Mr. Lyons says she seems stressed lately, but if he says, “I’ve been concerned about you lately” she sighs, softens and looks thoughtful, saying, “Oh, really? Why?” With my own high-schooler at home, this is still a work in progress for me. The reflexive words that come are not always the ones I would choose if I were always mindful of watering vs. withering. I’ll keep using the plant metaphor and my frequent conversations with Rene to help improve my averages!

11/3/2016: The Challenging Journey from High School to College: A Moment with Kognito’s Co-Founder Dr. Glenn Albright

We met with Kognito’s Co-Founder and Director of Research, Dr. Glenn Albright, last week to discuss some topics on his mind . . .

What’s currently a hot topic for you in the field of school mental health? Because I’m a college professor, spending much of my time around freshman, I’m thinking a lot about the transition they make from high school to college and how that transition is often very challenging for some. It’s a passionate subject for me and I’d like to somehow make that transition easier for them. For many young people, it’s the first time they’re away from home, pulled from the current emotional support system they’ve been used to, whether that support came from friends, home or school. Theyexperience a whole new world in college, new people, new environments, new responsibilities.

Try Kognito’s At-Risk on Campus Simulation to Promote Emotional Wellness in Universities

The stress of this transition can be many-fold. In addition to the normal stress most experience, some are bringing already-existing problems: depression, anxiety, eating disorders. They are entering college already struggling; into another environment which creates new stressors, and can exacerbate those that already exist. And due to the stigma surrounding depression and other mental health issues, many students suffer in isolation. We see studies that show up to 40% of college students report symptoms of depression that are serious enough that it interferes with their academic and social functioning. That’s a profound statistic!

How can we prepare them better to make this transition? What if we could prepare them before they leave high school or empower parents to take some of the lead to support them better? Often parents don’t have a full understanding of what emotional hurdles their children will face in both leaving one environment and entering a completely new one. We buy clothes and other things for their new adventure but we , and we also need to prepare them emotionally. This means that we have to educate parents which includes addressing their own stereotypes and stigma.

Try Step In, Speak Up! to Create a Safe, Supportive Campus Environment

There has to be a degree of psycho-education, not only for those with already-existing conditions, but for every student making this transition. This involves helping them understand and communicate some basic things:

  • What is stress?
  • How does it manifest physically and mentally?
  • When is it normal and when does it become more serious, like in the case of depression?
  • It’s normal to feel stress on campus; it’s part of everyday life.
  • Many students feel it.
  • How can we reduce stress and get support when we need it?
  • What are students’ beliefs around mental health and seeking support if they should need it?
  • Just because a student might need or want mental health support does not mean he/she is incapable, inadequate, etc. In fact, it’s a sign of strength and courage.

I’d love to see, and of course Kognito is always working towards this, a culture shift in which college-age students, parents, high school personnel, and indeed everyone becomes more aware of the stressors surrounding this transition for our young people, and it becomes a normal part of life to talk about them and address them at every step of the way.

10/27/2016: News from the 21st Annual Advancing School Mental Health Conference

Kognito’s SVP of Strategic Partnerships attended the 21st Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health in San Diego from Sept 29-Oct 1. The Center for School Mental Health (CSMH), organizers of the conference, reported record attendance as school mental health continues to mature and gain acceptance as having an essential role in ensuring students’ health and as critical component of their academic success.

The theme of the conference was Shape the Future of School Mental Health: Advancing Quality and Sustainability. The conference emphasized a shared school-family-community agenda to bring high quality and evidence-based mental health promotion, prevention, and interventions to students and families. Clinicians, educators, administrators, youth and family members, researchers, primary care providers, advocates, and other youth-serving professionals attended the conference.

Several conference presenters talked about their use of Kognito simulations as part of their universal prevention and early intervention efforts in support of student mental health. Among these were:

∙ Scott Bloom and Marci Bouchard of the New York City Department of Education who discussed their work supporting the citywide NYC Thrive mental health initiative, championed by NYC first lady, Chirlaine McCray. As part of this groundbreaking mental health initiative, which seeks to remove barriers to treatment for mental health and substance use disorders, all NYC public schools have free access to Kognito simulations for elementary, middle and high school educators. We look forward to making great strides for NYC youth by reaching all 100,000 educators who support 1.1 million students, 

 Janet Pozmantier of MHA of Greater Houston mentioned the use of Kognito simulations as part of system change efforts in large urban school districts.

 Mike Lombardo of Placer County (CA) Office of Education pointed to the value of Kognito simulations as part of PBIS programming.

 Carrie Freshour of the Baltimore County Public Schools discussed Kognito simulations in the context of implementing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)

If ASMH is new to you, be sure to sign up for news about next year’s conference and opportunities to present. Join the listserv, here.

10/21/2016: Fairfax County Schools Using Kognito to Stop Anti-LGBT Bullying

”You’re so gay!”

We’ve all heard it before. Friends teasing each other. A bully displaying negative behavior. Someone looking for attention by saying something risky enough to look bad, but not bad enough to reprimanded. And why are there no consequences for this anti-LGBTQ behavior? The problem is faculty and staff members don’t always know how to intervene in any type of bullying situation. So, how do we get those on the front lines to not only show their support for all students, but build the skills necessary to approach these situations with the required respect and understanding?

Kognito’s Sr. Strategist, LGBTQ Programs Wes Nemenz sat down with NBC Washington’s David Culver in Fairfax, VA to explore how one of many schools across the country are utilizing Kognito’s Step In, Speak Up simulations, training their faculty and staff in understanding the struggles of their LGBTQ students.

Kognito on NBC Washington

Spirit Day 2016 brought millions all over the globe together to take a stand against bullying, specifically that of LGBTQ youth. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at higher risk than their non-LGBTQ peers of being verbally or physically harassed or assaulted with negative consequences for their mental and physical health as well as their academic achievement. Step In, Speak Up! is a 30-minute online role-play simulation that helps youth-serving adults increase understanding and appreciation for the challenges faced by LGBTQ youth and build confidence and competence to intervene in these incidents.

Step In, Speak Up

This simulation is part of a suite created to address bullying and mental health in PK-12 and higher education. It has been widely adopted across the country in states like Texas and Illinois and cities such as New York. Learners get practice in curtailing the use of biased language, addressing harassment, and reaching out to a student who has been harassed. These actions help send signals that these words and behaviors are not okay. The learners are introduced to three youth coaches based on real people who help guide them through scenarios to practice positively intervening with realistic virtual students.

The virtual students in the simulation are coded with their own personality and emotions; they mimic real-life behavior which makes the experience accurate, giving a stronger learning experience. Face-to-face role play training has inherent limitations that Kognito’s simulations overcome, resulting in a skills building experience that is more enjoyable to the learner. Some schools have implemented the simulation as their sole source of professional development while others use it to supplement their existing anti-bullying initiatives.

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