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April 2023 (covers news, announcements and happenings from January to March 2023)


Graphic of BRI Research Rounds

BRI Research Rounds

The Bloorview Research Institute launched a new virtual monthly speaker series earlier this month to highlight some of the world’s leading experts in childhood disability research. Dr. Jessica Brian was the series’ inaugural speaker and delivered a riveting talk on autism and associated social communication challenges, from early signs to early supports to a global audience. Her talk drew more than 1,000 registrants from 20 countries worldwide; nearly 600 attendees tuned into the seminar; an a link to the talk was sent to all registrants.

Dr. Tom Chau, senior scientist and director of the PRISM Lab, will give the next virtual talk on May 2nd. His talk is titled: Brain-Computer Interfaces as Access Technologies for Children and Youth with Disabilities: It’s the Thought that Counts.

To learn more about the series and register, visit:

Top Stories

Breaking down barriers: The Bloorview Research Institute announced its inaugural EMBARK scientist, Dr. De-Lawrence Lamptey. This program is the first of its kind in Canada to provide opportunities for Black researchers to advance their childhood disability research beyond the post-doctoral level. Dr. Lamptey will start his new position this September. Read more.

Leading the paradigm shift in prosthetic design and fabrication: A new partnership between the PROPEL research lab and Nia Technologies aims to reduce the learning curve of clinicians using digital technologies by creating tools to automate key parts of the prosthetic design process. Read more.

Kids with similar brain function don’t share the same clinical diagnoses: A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, finds that subgroups of kids with similar brain patterns do not always share the same clinical diagnosis. Read more.

Becoming you: A new book has been developed for pre-teens, parents and other groups to spark conversations on disability and sexuality. Dr. Amy McPherson, a senior scientist leading the ProFILE research lab, and Christine Provvidenza, a knowledge translation lead with the Evidence to Care team, co-created the fully accessible book with lived experience collaborators, parents and caregivers, educators, researchers and healthcare professionals. This resource is part of the Disability and Sexuality Resource Hub. Read more.

More BRI stories can be found here.  

Call for Applications: Graduate Student Scholarship Awards

Through the generosity of the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and our donors, BRI is thrilled to offer funding for five graduate student awards in the 2023-2024 academic year to contribute to the training of the next generation of rehabilitation researchers.

The Kimel Family Fund has made available two Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarships in Pediatric Rehabilitation and two Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarships in Pediatric Disability valued at $20,000 per award. One of the four Kimel Scholarship will be designated to support an imaging focused project. The successful applicant will receive an additional $10,000 of in-kind support to cover scan acquisition costs.

Also available this year is the Whipper Watson Graduate Research Studentship Award. This award, valued at $10,000, is funded in memory of Whipper “Billy” Watson, a Toronto legend and wrestler known for his charitable work for children with disabilities.

Applications for the 2023-2024 Graduate Student Awards are due no later than May 31st, 2023. For more information and application instructions please see the Holland Bloorview website. Any questions can be directed to Meghann Proulx.

Grants and Awards


Dr. Azadeh Kushki
Examining the correlates of adaptive functioning in neurodevelopmental conditions: Data from the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopmental Network.

People on the Move

Congratulations to Dr. Sharon Smile who has been promoted to clinician investigator! In addition to being a clinician investigator, Dr. Smile is also a developmental pediatrician at Holland Bloorview. Her research focuses on autism spectrum disorder (ASD), feeding and eating challenges in ASD, and health inequities. Some of her current research projects are the ASD and ARFID Feeding Hub: An Integrated Approach to Improving Health, and another project that is examining whether using telemedicine to conduct ASD diagnostic assessments is inadvertently creating inequities in access for children from marginalized populations. She also recently launched the ASD FEED-Ed, an education platform designed to educate children, youth, parents and caregivers as well as health-care professionals about feeding and autistic children.

As of April 31, 2023, Dr. Barbara Gibson will be transitioning from her role as Senior Scientist to a position as Adjunct Scientist as part of a phased retirement from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Gibson has led the CDARS (Critical Disability and Rehabilitation Studies) Lab for 15 years.  She holds appointments as a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and is a full member of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. Additionally, she is a research associate at the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research and a research associate at the Person Centred Research Unit at AUT University in New Zealand. She also held the Bloorview Kids Foundation Chair in Childhood Disability Studies for 10 years.

Dr. Gibson’s breadth of research investigates how social, cultural and institutional practices intersect in producing health, inclusion/exclusion and identity with disabled children and youth. The work is interdisciplinary and intersectional; drawing upon sociological studies of health, bioethics, posthuman scholarship and critical disability studies. 

A prolific researcher, she has authored over 160 peer-reviewed articles and has garnered more than 4,800 research citations spanning more than two decades. Among her numerous accolades is her appointment as a Fellow of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada in 2016.

The BRI is indebted to Dr. Gibson's for her important research and looking forward to all that she will continue to do at Holland Bloorview!

BRI Resource – Research Communications Tool Kit

Attention researchers and trainees! Do you have a study that you want to recruit participants for through our hospital’s communication and social media channels? Interested in raising awareness of your new research study or project across the wider hospital community and beyond?

We have created a new Research Communications Tool Kit with tip sheets and online resources to help you with 1) study recruitment promotion efforts and 2) communicating your research to targeted audiences through Holland Bloorview’s digital channels.

The tool kit is available on our BRI Resource Portal now (search: ‘Research Communications’).

Contact Suelan Toye, Senior Research Communications Specialist (, and she would be happy to walk your research team through the toolkit.

BRITE Corner

The BRITE committee is excited to announce that registration is officially open for this year’s BRITE Professional Growth Summit on May 9th and 10th, 2023. The theme of the summit is: Empowering your Future Beyond Grad School.

The event will be split in the morning (9:00 am - 1:00 pm, time subject to change) of May 9th & May 10th, 2023. We hope that spreading the event over two days will help with schedule flexibility. Please attend as much as you can! You will find a variety of speaker sessions and interactive workshops over the two days with opportunities for professional growth and tools to accelerate your professional development in and outside of academia. No matter where you are in your research path, there will be a workshop and session that is of value and relevance to you. To secure your spot for this workshop, please register here:

We would like to highlight that ALL attendees will receive a Gift Basket which includes an UBER gift card! Finally, we will have raffle prizes announced at the end of each day. 

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to learn more about our incredible speakers and interactive sessions planned for the workshop. This will be a professional development opportunity that you don't want to miss (and which you can include in your CV). 

Please encourage your research students and Ward Summer Students to register. We look forward to seeing you there!

Call for Nominations for BRITE Awards of Excellence

The Bloorview Research Institute Trainee Executive (BRITE) is excited to celebrate the Holland Bloorview research trainees, staff, and supervisors who go above and beyond to shape the next generation of researchers, scientists, and clinicians. BRITE is soliciting nominations for the 2022/2023 BRITE Awards for Excellence and is eager to hear your stories of excellence in the BRI community. Nominations are accepted from all BRI Affiliates: trainees, scientists, research staff, clinician collaborators, clients, families, and volunteers.

If you would like to nominate a current BRI trainee, staff member, or advisor for one of the awards, please fill out the nomination form and provide specific examples of how the nominee demonstrates excellence based on Holland Bloorview’s values and the award descriptions outlined in the call for nominations document. A brief outline of the award opportunities is provided below, and the award rubric is also attached for your review. 

Deadline for nominations is on Wednesday, May 31st at 5 p.m. (EST). Please email all submissions to

Daniela Testani and Kieran Wheatley
Your BRITE Co-Chairs

Trainee Spotlight

Each year, over 100 trainees from universities across Canada come to the BRI to collaborate with some of the world’s top scientists in the field of pediatric disability research to advance scientific knowledge – and champion a world of possibilities for kids with disabilities and their families.

BRI Quarterly speaks to one research trainee, Kieran Wheatley, who is a Master’s of Science graduate student working with Dr. Deryk Beal and his research team in the CONNECT Lab. She is also a graduate student at University of Toronto’s Rehabilitation Sciences Institute within the Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

How did you get interested in your field of research?

I completed my undergraduate degree in kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto. Throughout my degree I took a particular interest in neuroscience courses, revolving around motor learning and neuroplasticity, and was fascinated by the complexity of the brain and its potential for advancement in learning related outcomes. Dr. Joyce Chen, in the faculty of kinesiology, who now sits on my supervisory committee, taught a class titled Performance and Neuroplasticity. This was the first time I had been introduced to brain stimulation and the impact this could have in behaviour, performance enhancement and rehabilitation outcomes. This really motivated me to learn more and immerse myself in my field of interest, ultimately leading me to pursue a master’s degree where I could have first-hand experience working with these tools.

What drew you to Holland Bloorview’s Bloorview Research Institute?

I have worked with children in essentially every job I’ve ever held – a gymnastics coach, inclusion aid, summer camp director... I am passionate about building confidence and independence through development of functional ability and wanted to continue my education somewhere that aligned with that. The initial attraction to Holland Bloorview was there and then I got the opportunity to work with Dr. Deryk Beal, who had a particular interest in motor learning and neuromodulation. He was immediately supportive of my research interests and encouraged me to develop a research project which leveraged my background in kinesiology and his in speech language pathology, to further explore the neural mechanisms behind the learning process of speech. In speaking with Dr. Beal, I learned about the incredible resources available to me at Holland Bloorview, such as the new research MRI and neuromodulation equipment. In my master’s degree program, I wanted to soak up as much information and skills as I possibly could and knew Holland Bloorview would be the right facility to do so. 

What are you and your study team working on right now?

Our study team is focused on two main lines of research, namely: (1) Understanding neurodevelopment via human brain mapping using MRI and (2) leveraging our new knowledge from human brain mapping to innovate novel neuromodulation treatments for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. We investigate how people’s brain’s grow and change over their lifetime and then use this information to decide the parts of the brain to target with non-invasive brain stimulation, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). The brain stimulation can modulate brain activity in the targeted brain area up or down, and impact how quickly and easily we learn a new task or relearn a previously perfected one: such as talking or walking.

How can your research unlock a new world of possibilities for children and youth with disabilities and their families?

My research is uncovering how the brain is using sensory information to control how our bodies move. Specifically, I am investigating how sound sensory information used during speech is processed by our brains to support how we learn to speak. 

Knowing what brain areas contribute to learning how to speak is crucial to children acquiring language for the first time or those relearning language after a brain injury. We’re unlocking a world of possibilities for children and youth with disabilities and their families by innovating new treatments that will support learning to walk and talk more quickly and easily than ever before.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I coordinate children’s programming at the University of Toronto. I grew up in the gymnastics program at U of T and love that I am able to still be so involved in the Sport and Rec community at UofT, in addition to my studies here. If I have extra time, I’m likely gardening, cooking, rock climbing or exploring the bars and restaurants in the city - let me know if you need a recommendation! 

Staff Spotlight

[Photo credit: Alexander Hodge – taken in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, which claims to be the hottest place in the world.]

It’s no secret that Holland Bloorview is full of everyday heroes. But how well do you know them? Let’s get to know Alexander Hodge, a senior game developer at the Bloorview Research Institute’s Possibility Engineering And Research Lab, otherwise known as the PEARL Lab.

What did you want to do/be when you grew up?
Many different things! I remember when I was much younger thinking at different points that it would be fun to be a train conductor, a veterinarian, a teacher, a pilot, an author, a carpenter, a musician, a MotoGP racer… in fact I think all of those would still be fun to do once I’m grown up!

What did you do before you came to Holland Bloorview?
I was developing interactive audio and music software, tools and plugins for game development, and mobile games and apps with different start-up companies, non-profits, and research teams.

What is your role here?
In my role as a senior game developer with the PEARL Lab, I help to design and build interactive games and apps for kids’ therapy with an amazing team of scientists, engineers, clinicians, musicians and artists.

Biggest guilty pleasure?
I love a well written and produced pop song, it doesn’t matter the style/era/vocalist. Sometimes I’ll find myself singing along to music that I’m listening to through headphones, which can be distracting to other people around me, and when that happens I do feel a little guilty.

Personal pet peeve?
Any form of inaccessibility in technology or the built environment.

What do you like to do in your free time?

On any given day in my free time you might find me travelling, playing and listening to music, reading (especially philosophy), sleeping, bicycling, camping, woodcarving/whittling, long distance running, paddle boarding, playing with animals, working on and playing with my own video game ideas, attending concert and theatre performances, watercolour painting, perfecting my coffee brewing technique, or hanging out with family and friends.

Upcoming Events

Stay tuned for more details about the Bloorview Research Institute’s upcoming BRI Research Rounds speaker series. Our May speaker will be Dr. Tom Chau, a senior scientist and one of the world’s leading experts in assistive technologies. Our June speaker will be Dr. Shannon Scratch, a clinician scientist, clinical neuropsychologist and a top expert in acquired brain injury and persistent concussion.

May 2 | BRI Research Rounds with Dr. Tom Chau

June 6 | BRI Research Rounds with Dr. Shannon Scratch

Learn more at and register for Dr. Chau’s talk

July 18 | Ward Research Day and Pursuit Awards

November 2023 | BRI Research Symposium

Are you a member of the BRI community and are hosting an event? Please contact Suelan Toye at to promote your upcoming event in the next issues of the BRI Quarterly.


About BRI Quarterly 

BRI Quarterly, the forefront of childhood disability research, is the online publication of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital's research institute (the Bloorview Research Institute (BRI)).

Holland Bloorview’s research, teaching, technology development and innovation will be driven by a no boundaries philosophy, which encompasses the following key impact areas: Discover for action, personalize pathways, connect the system, and co-create with children, youth, families and alumni. Ultimately, the goal is to enable better access to the most advanced and proven care, ideas and treatment.


About Bloorview Research Institute

Holland Bloorview's research institute is housed at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, a top 40 Canadian research hospital that is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and serves over 8,000 families annually. The Bloorview Research Institute (BRI) is recognized across the world for its unique client population and leadership in the field of childhood disability. Learn more.


Share Your News

If you've recently presented at a conference, celebrated an award, grant or publication; or have a story idea, please contact Suelan Toye at to share your news in the next BRI Quarterly!