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Otago hosts influential Australasian conference

Sculpture outside Centre for Innovation

Friday 1 July 2011 9:11am

More than 150 psychologists, educators, and health professionals from New Zealand and around the world will gather at the University of Otago next week for the prestigious Conference of the Australasian Human Development Association (AHDA).

Event organiser and current ADHA President Associate Professor Claire Fletcher-Flinn, of the University of Otago College of Education, says the Association is the preeminent think-tank in the area of developmental psychology in Australasia.

“The group is very influential in the sharing of ideas and in new research into the area of developmental psychology and education. Out of this, and these conferences, comes the direction that education and health policy often takes with respect to young people,” she says.

An impressive line-up of keynote speakers include Otago’s Professor Harlene Hayne – well known for her research into the transition between childhood and adulthood.
In her presentation, she will discuss how basic science on brain maturation might help to understand the behaviour of adolescents and young adults.

“Using data collected in my laboratory and in others, I will explore the possible role of brain maturation in alcohol consumption, antisocial behaviour, and sleep patterns. I will also explore how these data might be used to inform people. I will highlight both the risks and the opportunities that characterise this exciting stage of human development,” Professor Hayne writes in her abstract.

University of Otago Emeritus Professor Jim Flynn, renowned for his work examining intelligence, will also discuss how IQ has increased over time, and the social implications and practical significance of such a change.

The other keynote speakers are leading expert in child witness testimonies in Japan, Professor Makiko Naka, of Hokkaido University, who will expand on her research into child testimonies and the influence and outcomes of research techniques; Dr Brian Thompson, from Victoria University of Wellington, School of Educational Psychology and Pedagogy, who will share new research conclusions which require a revision of the accepted fundamentals of learning to read. These come from his series of cross-national studies comparing the effects of teaching without phonics on the way in which children and adults read, and from new research with Japanese children and adults on how they learn to read their hiragana orthography; and Dr. Jeffrey Halperin, Professor of Psychology at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and Acting Program Head of the Neuropsychology Doctoral Program.

For nearly three decades Dr Halperin has been conducting research examining diagnostic and treatment issues, as well as neural functioning, in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other disruptive behaviour disorders.

He will present a novel early intervention/prevention programme for preschool children. The approach is based on compelling data indicating that certain environmental manipulations can impact brain growth and development, which in turn may have a lasting effect on the severity of ADHD.

The conference runs from Monday July 4 to July 6, and will be held at the College of Education.

For further information, contact

Claire Fletcher-Flinn
Tel 64 3 479 8894

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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