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The Bloorview Research Institute (BRI) is recognized around the world for its leadership in the field of clinically applied and family-centred disability research, dedicated to creating meaningful and healthy futures for children and youth living with developmental differences and disabilities locally and worldwide.

The research institute is housed within Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Canada's largest children's rehabilitation hospital.

To share the transformational research that our scientists are conducting everyday to scientific communities on a national and global stage, the research institute is proud to launch BRI Research Rounds.

The BRI Research Rounds is a free monthly speaker series featuring the research institute’s world renowned scientists in the field of neurodevelopmental conditions and disability research.

Held virtually, the monthly speaker series will shine a spotlight on how scientists are exploring the brains, bodies, and lived experiences of children, youth and adults with disabilities and developmental differences. The series will also showcase how our communities and the environments we build impact their quality of life and outcomes and how such understandings inform how we co-develop novel meaningful interventions and understand developmental diversity.

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Elaine Biddiss, Senior Scientist and Bloorview Childrens Hospital Foundation Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation


Date and time:

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, 12 to 1 p.m. EST


Registration:

Register now using this link


Research Talk

Bridging opportunity gaps in pediatric rehabilitation: play and learning through low-cost virtual technologies

This talk will explore the design and implementation of home-based technologies to create possibilities for: (1) family-centred rehabilitation interventions, (2) reimagining clinical assessment, and (3) promoting participation for children with disabilities. With a focus on gaming and low-cost sensors for capturing human movement, Dr. Biddiss hopes to bridge opportunity gaps for families who are unable to access care or participate in research via traditional pathways. Central to this work is the voice of knowledge holders, particularly children, and bringing the spirit of playfulness to rehabilitation.

Biography

Dr. Elaine Biddiss is a senior scientist with the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Associate Professor with the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Member of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. She holds the Bloorview Childrens Hospital Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation. With her team, the Possibility Engineering and Research Lab or PEARL, Dr. Biddiss is dedicated to creating and evaluating innovative games and apps that support young people of all abilities to achieve their goals in both recreation and rehabilitation. She embraces an interdisciplinary design approach and enjoys the challenges of integrating engineering, medicine, arts, and design. In 2021, Dr. Biddiss co-founded Pearl Interactives, a start-up dedicated to translating her team’s research innovations into the hands of kids, their families, and clinicians.  

Previous Research Talks

October 2023 - Dr. Darcy Fehlings

Date and time:

Tuesday, October 17, 2023, 12 to 1 p.m. EST

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Darcy Fehlings, senior clinician scientist and head of the Cerebral Palsy Discovery Lab

Research Talk

Genomic Architecture of Cerebral Palsy- How are the Latest Research Findings impacting on Clinical Care and Creating Opportunities for Precision Medicine?

This talk will present cutting edge research using the latest technology of whole genome sequencing to investigate the genomic architecture of cerebral palsy.  This research work represents the largest whole genome sequencing study to date and arises out of large cerebral palsy (CP) networks (CP-NET and the Canadian CP Registry).  The results of types and rates of pathogenic/likely pathogenic variants will be presented. The talk will also discuss the intersection of genomic etiologic risk on clinical care for individuals with CP including shifting the CP diagnosis label, genomic diagnostic testing in children with neurodisabilities, genetic actionability and enhancements in precision medicine.  

Biography

Dr. Darcy Fehlings is a developmental paediatrician and professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto.  She is a senior clinician scientist in the Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Her clinical and research work focuses on the innovation and evaluation of interventions for children with cerebral palsy including hypertonia interventions, early detection, constraint therapy, dystonia and pain management.  She is the lead investigator of an Ontario Brain Institute integrated neuroscience network focused on children with cerebral palsy (CP-NET) which includes a focus on the genomics of cerebral palsy.  She has held positions as the inaugural head of the Uof T Division of Developmental Paediatrics (2006-2022) and president of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (2015). Read her full bio here.

Learn more about the CP Discovery Lab

September 2023 - Dr. Amy McPherson

Date and time:

September 12, 2023, Noon to 1 p.m. EST

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Amy McPherson, senior scientist and head of the Promoting a Future of Inclusive Healthy Lifestyles for Everyone (ProFILE) Lab

 

Research Talk

We are sexual too: Supporting the intimate lives of youth with disabilities through partnership and knowledge mobilization

The dominant approach to sexuality and disability in contemporary society is biomedical and focused upon abuse prevention, risk reduction and behaviour management. Absent are narratives of pleasure, choice, and the right of all people to make choices over their intimate lives.

Youth with disabilities can have the same sexual desires as their nondisabled peers, yet tailored education and representation of youth with disabilities is woefully lacking. This talk reviews the systematic development of a body of research around sexuality and disability, and how this is being mobilized through partnerships across Canada to better support youth with disabilities to make choices about their intimate lives.

Building on two decades of research with younger siblings of children with autism, we have come to understand some of the earliest manifestations of autism and related social communication challenges. These include differences in motor development, regulating and sharing attention and emotions, and directing communication to a social partner. Understanding these early signs has informed the development of early interventions and supports, including naturalistic developmental behavioural interventions. We present the Social ABCs, a Canadian-made model, as an exemplar to illustrate the pipeline from program development to delivery, with a focus on the latest data from research and implementation studies. We consider key knowledge gaps, next steps, and guiding principles for early supports.

Biography

Amy McPherson is a Senior Scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute and Associate professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. For the past 14 years, she has led the ProFILE (Promoting an Inclusive healthy Lifestyle for Everyone) lab and directs a comprehensive program of research in health promotion for children and youth with disabilities. Her research addresses the inequities experienced by youth with disabilities in accessing information that supports their health and wellness, especially around ‘taboo topics’ such as sexuality, incontinence and mental health. Read her full bio here.

Learn more about the ProFILE Lab

July 2023 - Dr. Melanie Penner

Date and time:

July 5, 2023, Noon to 1 p.m. EST

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Melanie Penner, senior clinician scientist and developmental pediatrician, and member of the Autism Research Centre 
 

Research Talk

Beyond the Ivory Tower: Building and Evaluating Community Capacity for Autism Diagnosis

This talk will describe research happening at Holland Bloorview focused on growing capacity for autism diagnosis to enable timely access. There are many factors to consider for autism diagnosis, including analyzing the evidence base for diagnostic models and understanding the perspectives of general pediatricians. At Holland Bloorview, Dr. Penner and her team research and evaluate the accuracy of a general pediatrician autism assessment compared to a multi-disciplinary team.

Dr. Penner will also describe her work leading Project ECHO Ontario Autism Ontario, including successes, lessons learned, and plans for future evaluation of this model.

Biography

Dr. Melanie Penner is a developmental paediatrician and senior clinician scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto and an associate professor in the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. Her clinical and research interests are in autism. She is interested in service delivery for this population, including evaluating the impact of new care models. As the lead physician in the ECHO Ontario Autism Program, she works to expand Ontario's diagnostic capacity for autism spectrum disorder in the community setting, decreasing wait times and facilitating earlier access to appropriate supports. Dr. Penner is also dedicated to including the voices of autistic individuals in many aspects of her work to improve our understanding of their experiences and to provide better care. Read her full bio here.

Learn more about the Autism Research Centre

June 2023 - Dr. Shannon Scratch

Date and time:

June 6, 2023, Noon to 1 p.m. EST

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Shannon Scratch, clinician scientist, clinical neuropsychologist, and director of the NOvEL Lab (Neurorehab Outcomes via Education and Learning)

 

Research Talk

From Bedside to Bench: Youth and Family Experiences as a Driver for Research in Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired brain injuries and concussions happen quickly, are often unexpected, and can change life trajectories for young people and their families. Young people can have trouble returning to the most important areas of their lives because they experience changes in cognition, mental heath and behaviours, physical functioning, or their social world and environment. Every young person experiences their injury differently, and have a unique pattern based on who they are before their injury, their age at injury, and the type of injury. There are very few interventions designed with young people and their families to support them across these different areas of life.

At Holland Bloorview, we have been seeking to fill this gap. This talk will present some of the key interventions and education programs that we are designing. Through an interdisciplinary approach, these interventions start from the ground (the bedside) with stories from young people, their families, and clinicians. They then travel to the bench (the lab) to be created and tested, with the goal that young people living with acquired brain injury and concussion re-engage with the important areas of their lives.

Biography

Dr. Shannon Scratch is a clinician scientist, clinical neuropsychologist and holds the Holland Family Professorship in Acquired Brain Injury. She is also director of the NOvEL (Neurorehab Outcomes via Education and Learning) Lab.  Her research focuses primarily on developing and exploring novel ways to help children with acquired brain injuries and concussions recover and reach their full potential. This means co-creating toolkits with teachers to teach educators about ABI to support students in their classrooms, or developing assessment tools for clinicians to use when evaluating when their concussed clients can return to playing sports, among other research projects. Read about Dr. Shannon Scratch’s research publications here. Read her full bio.

Learn more about the NOvEL Lab

May 2023 - Dr. Tom Chau

Date and time:

May 2, 2023, Noon to 1 p.m. EST

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Tom Chau, senior scientist and head of the PRISM Lab

Research Talk

Brain-computer interfaces as access technologies for children and youth with disabilities: It’s the thought that counts

This talk will focus on some recent advances in non-invasive brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) developed at Holland Bloorview as an alternative access pathway to communication and environmental control. BCIs directly harness brain activity associated with functional intent and thereby bypass the motor system in connecting people to the world around them. At Holland Bloorview, we have been investigating near-infrared spectroscopic BCIs, neuroelectric BCIs, ultrasonic BCIs and some combinations thereof. Each modality will be briefly introduced, and a sampling of novel BCI control paradigms will be exemplified. We are only beginning to understand the enabling and therapeutic potential of BCIs in the development of children. The presentation will close with a description of how these technologies are being translated into clinical practice at Holland Bloorview.

Biography

Tom Chau is a Senior Scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at University of Toronto. He holds the Raymond G. Chang Foundation Chair in Access Innovations and previously, a Canada Research Chair in Pediatric Rehabilitation Engineering (2004-2014). A core research focus of his PRISM lab is the investigation of novel access pathways to facilitate communication for children and youth with severe physical impairments. He has published over 220 refereed articles. Chau’s lab has developed numerous access innovations that are being used by children and youth, locally and abroad. In the last decade and a half, his lab has created a variety of brain-computer interfaces that facilitate communication and control through mental activities. His lab has been featured in national and international media. His contributions to science, engineering, and the quality of life of children and youth with disabilities have been recognized with various awards, including the da Vinci Award (USA), the AACPDM’s Cathleen Lyle Murray Award (USA), Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, Dr. Jonas Salk Award, Meritorious Service Cross, the Order of Ontario, and the Governor General’s Innovation Award.

Learn more about the PRISM Lab

 

April 2023 - Dr. Jessica Brian

Date and time:

April 4, 2023, Noon to 1 p.m. EST

Featured Speaker:

Dr. Jessica Brian, senior clinician-scientist, psychologist, co-lead of the Autism Research Centre

Dr. Jessica Brian, sitting in her office

Research Talk

From Early Signs to Early Supports: What do we know about autism and social communication challenges in early life and how can we provide developmental supports as soon as possible?

Building on two decades of research with younger siblings of children with autism, we have come to understand some of the earliest manifestations of autism and related social communication challenges. These include differences in motor development, regulating and sharing attention and emotions, and directing communication to a social partner. Understanding these early signs has informed the development of early interventions and supports, including naturalistic developmental behavioural interventions. We present the Social ABCs, a Canadian-made model, as an exemplar to illustrate the pipeline from program development to delivery, with a focus on the latest data from research and implementation studies. We consider key knowledge gaps, next steps, and guiding principles for early supports.

Biography

Dr. Jessica Brian is a clinical psychologist and senior clinician-scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, where she co-leads the Autism Research Centre, and is an associate professor at University of Toronto’s Department of Paediatrics. She specializes in neurodevelopmental disabilities with a particular interest in early identification and supports in autism.

Dr. Brian has spent the last two decades collaborating in longitudinal research investigating the development of children at elevated likelihood for autism, followed from infancy into adolescence (Canadian Infant Sibling Study and Baby Siblings Research Consortium). Informed by this early identification work, Dr. Brian co-developed the Social ABCs, a parent-mediated intervention for toddlers showing early signs of autism or related challenges. She has a long history of training developmental paediatric fellows, psychology interns and community providers (paediatricians, psychologists, early childhood educators) in early detection, assessment, diagnosis and supports for autistic children and youth and their families.

Upcoming Speakers:

January 16, 2024: Dr. Deryk Beal, senior scientist, CONNECT Lab

February 6, 2024: Dr. Jan Andrysek, senior scientist, PROPEL Lab

March 12, 2024: Dr. Sally Lindsay, senior scientist, TRAIL Lab

April 2, 2024: Dr. Tim Ross, scientist, EPIC Lab

May 7, 2024: Dr. Virginia Wright, senior scientist, SPARK Lab

June 4, 2024: Dr. Azadeh Kushki, senior scientist and associate chief of data science, ARC

September 10, 2024: Dr. De-Lawrence Lamptey, EMBARK scientist

December 11, 2024: Dr. Danielle Baribeau, clinician scientist and psychiatrist, ARC


 

Interested in learning more about our future speakers?

Please email BRIresearchrounds@hollandbloorview.ca to be added to our mailing list