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Results from the FOCUS GROUP interviews. A look into the first stages of the EMPOWER project

 Research team from Business School, Iscte-IUL, Lisbon, Portugal

Focus Group

First stages of EMPOWER project

October, 2023




In the initial stages of the EMPOWER Project, we met with expert teachers and independent specialists via focus group interviews, to explore and gain deeper insights into their perspectives concerning the utility and requirements of resources to help neurodiverse children develop their executive functions and emotional skills.

These focus groups were conducted at the end of 2022 and the data we collected helped us to identify the main features recommended for incorporation in the games, which we are taking into consideration during their development phase.

Procedures and participants

We interviewed a total of 32 experts (29 female and 3 male), 19 Portuguese nationals and 13 Romanian nationals.

A script was prepared and followed to help us understand which available tools our experts mostly use, and what resources are lacking when focusing on assessing and fostering cognitive and emotion-related competencies in neurodiverse primary school-aged children.

Main Findings

Discussing the main results and findings

The analysis of our data has enabled us to find 6 main themes, that cascaded onto different categories of analysis, leading us to the design of specific features for our games.

Our experts have mentioned they mainly use activities that have rewards (“In every activity I do, I always use positive reinforcement”), are captivating (“dynamic activities (..) the stimulus is captivating”), and have images (“a game of naming pairs, in which they had to select the image that was the same”).

In regards to the features to include when developing the games on the project, our experts mentioned having sound, being fun, customization, progress monitoring, rewards, short and straightforward activities, and feedback.

Interestingly, this analysis also brought forth the knowledge that our experts mostly focus on promoting Attention (“it really works for attention. It is very interactive and stimulates both competition and feedback at the same time”), Working Memory (“In terms of memory, I am thinking about the dictations given to them in some classes”) and Emotion naming (“Those games of recognizing facial expressions, of feeling happy, sad, angry”), in their practice. This might be due to currently available resources being mostly focused on these aspects, giving us good prospects on the utility of our digital platform and the learning outcomes for its users.

Main objectives of the focus group interviews

With this in mind, the following objectives were established:

1) To understand their perceptions about the cognitive abilities of neurodiverse children;

2) To identify their perceptions of how neurodiverse children regulate their emotions;

3) To acquire information on:

  • 3.1) Tasks that may help develop the cognitive abilities of neurodiverse children;
  • 3.2) Tasks that may help develop more adaptive emotion regulation strategies of neurodiverse children;
  • 3.3) Technological resources that may help develop the cognitive abilities of neurodiverse children;
  • 3.4) Technological resources that may help develop more adaptive emotion regulation strategies for neurodiverse children.