Developmental Research

Have you ever wondered what goes on in your child's mind? We have tools such as thermometers and x-rays that provide objective measures of what is going on in the body, but what about what goes on in children's minds? We know that food is the fuel of the body, and we know how food gets processed and used, but what about information? Information is fuel for the mind but how does it get processed and used? We, at M.Y.S.T. ask ourselves these questions every day. In studying children of different abilities, we start from four basic principles.

MYST's Four Principles

  1. Children's thinking and processing changes and matures in some systematic way over time.
  2. Some types of thinking processes are universal and others are unique to specific groups.
  3. Understanding the way typically developing children think informs us about the manner children with developmental disabilities process information.
  4. The way that children with developmental disabilities think and attend to the world teaches us about the parameters of thinking.

With this in mind, we study attention and cognition in various groups of children, adolescents, and adults, including those with autism, Down syndrome, and a history of typical development. Across these groups, we see similarities that suggest some universal ways of thinking and attending. However, we also see differences among the groups that provide a window to understanding their unique ways of thinking, attending, and processing information.


Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, as well stereotyped and repetitive interests and behaviours (DSM).

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome. It occurs in one in 700 - 900 live births and as a result, this can lead to certain genes on chromosome 21 being "over-expressed" causing cellular changes that result in health problems, developmental delays and learning disabilities(DSRF).

First Nations Youth

M.Y.S.T. collaborates with community leaders, school administrators, teachers, and students in various First Nations communities to develop programs of research that identify predictors of academic success, social adaptation, and emotional well-being among the communities' youth. In particular, we focus on the effects of identification with the indigenous culture, interpersonal relationships, social skills, and self-perceptions.



Iarocci, G., Root, R., & Burack, J. A. (in press) Social competence and mental health among Aboriginal youth: An integrative developmental perspective. In L. Kirmayer & G. Valaskakis (Eds.), The mental health of Canadian aboriginal peoples: Transformations of identity and community. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Iarocci, G., Root, R., & Burack, J. A. (2009) Social competence and mental health among Aboriginal youth: An integrative developmental perspective. In L. Kirmayer & G. Valaskakis (Eds.), Healing Traditions: The mental health of aboriginal peoples in Canada (pp. 80-106). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.


Burack, J. A., Blidner, A., Flores, H.V., & Fitch, T. A. (2007). Constructions and deconstructions of risk, resilience and well-being: A model for understanding the development of Aboriginal adolescents. Australasian Psychiatry, 15, S18-S23.