Helping young people build connections and resilience during COVID-19

male child playing secret agent society
Image from Secret Agent Society
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
17 May 2020

Dr Renae Beaumont is a Clinical Psychologist, close friend of Virgin Unite, and leader in the world of autism treatment.

Renae is devoted to improving the mental health and wellbeing of young people and her video-gaming based therapy programme, Secret Agent Society, is helping kids and their families navigate challenges in a fun, engaging way during a time when many of their usual supports are limited.

The current COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges for many families, especially those who have children on the Autism Spectrum or who have conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Anxiety Disorders. 

According to Renae, “These children often struggle most with the lack of structure associated with home quarantine restrictions, the organisational and attentional challenges of home-schooling and the uncertainty of when things will return to the ‘new normal’. They also frequently have difficulties socially connecting with others online and negotiating conflict with family at home.

male child playing secret agent society
Image from Secret Agent Society

The Secret Agent Society programme includes a multi-level animated computer game, and its skills practice ‘missions’ teach kids how to recognise emotions in themselves and others. "Along with recognising emotions, Secret Agent Society teaches kids how to cope with feelings of anxiety, disappointment and frustration. It also provides training on how to navigate social challenges around talking, hanging out and working with others, performing poorly at games or activities and dealing with teasing and bullying," said Renae.

Multiple research trials have shown the power of Secret Agent Society to improve children’s ability to manage their emotions and socially connect with others and  recent research has also shown the program to be effective for children with other psychiatric conditions, like ADHD and Anxiety Disorders. 

As a global society, our need for resilience and to support each other has never been greater. Secret Agent Society is equipping the next generation with skills to rise to this challenge.

Renae first met with Virgin Unite in early 2017 and since then her incredible work, compassion, and commitment to helping people in need has inspired us. After Hurricane Irma devastated the BVI in late 2017 Renae offered to assist Virgin with our community rebuild efforts across the BVI. Virgin Unite is incredibly grateful for her work and ongoing support.