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BRI Quarterly
Ward summer students - highlights

July 2021

Celebrating Ward Summer Students at Research Day

Undergraduate students across disciplines share their experiences in the Ward Summer Student Program.

The Ward Family Summer Student Research Program held its 15th annual Research Day earlier this month, with the largest cohort to date. Nineteen undergraduate students across disciplines presented their innovative research virtually due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

This competitive program attracts thousands of undergraduate students to apply each year from coast to coast. This year, the program received over 3,200 applications – the most to date.

Over the past 12 weeks, the students, whose academic disciplines ranged from biomedical engineering to psychology, worked closely with researchers on topics ranging from brain-controlled interfaces to the impact of technology use on kids with autism.

To read more about the students click here.

Top Stories

Holland Bloorview to break ground on largest research expansion in its history

Funded entirely by donors, the two-storey addition and renovated research facility will scale up Bloorview Research Institute’s work as a world leader in childhood disability research.

Read more

BRITE achieving excellence

Going above and beyond in shaping the next generation of researchers, scientists and clinicians.

Read more

Bloorview Research Institute joins Maternal Infant Child and Youth Research Network
Partnership to open up new opportunities for BRI scientists to engage in research opportunities

Read more

Our kids will be OK

Youth with and without disabilities are finding ways to be resilient during pandemic: study

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Showcasing outstanding contributions

Pursuit awards rewarding some of the country’s top young minds in their efforts to further develop the knowledge and understanding in childhood disability research.

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Loss of in-person school led to worsening mental health for kids during pandemic: preliminary findings

New preliminary data has found that the loss of in-school services have resulted in worse mental health outcomes for kids.

Read more

For a full list of BRI stories, visit:

In the News - Media Spotlight

Family foundation contributes more than $1-million to neurodevelopment research

Profile of $1-million gift from Azrieli Foundation to the Bloorview Research Institute’s work in neurodevelopment research.

North York rehab hospital expansion will have ‘tremendous impact’ on childhood disability

Bloorview Research Institute’s expansion’s final phase with quotes from Fabiana Bacchini, mother to her son Gabriel Nikolakakis.

Gow Hastings selected to design Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s new expansion

Details and features about Holland Bloorview’s largest expansion of its research institute, entirely funded by donors.

More media highlights can be found here.

Grants and Awards (April to June)


Dr. Jessica Brian
Health PEI, Government of Prince Edward Island
Social ABCs provincial Training

Dr. Tim Ross
SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant
Advancing Accessible Taxi Services for People with Disabilities in Toronto, Canada

Dr. Fiona Moola
SSHRC Connection Grant
Listening to the margins: building a new research network to support the social needs of racialized children with disabilities in Canada
2021 – 2022

Dr. Deryk Beal
CIHR Project Grant
Treatment to promote self-regulation in children with autism spectrum disorder
2021 – 2024

Dr. Gillian King
CIHR Project Grant
Developing a measure of resiliency-related adaptive self-capacities for rehabilitation intervention
2021 – 2026

Dr. Amy McPherson & Christine Provvidenza
Child-Bright KT Innovation Incubator
Let’s go to the library! Creating digital storybooks ab out sexuality for pre-teens with disabilities

Dr. Melanie Penner
Autism Speaks, Autism Treatment Network
PATH to Discovery Project


Dr. Amy McPherson ProFILE, Dr. Shannon Scratch NOVEL
Grant: Centre for Leadership grant, funded by Holland Bloorview Foundation
Well Being, COVID 19, and Resilience in Youth with Disabilities

Dr. Fiona Moola HEART Lab, Dr. Timothy Ross EPIC Lab
Grant: Centre for Leadership grant, funded by Holland Bloorview Foundation
Understanding Health Care Experiences of Racialized Youth with Disabilities, their Caregivers, and the Health Providers Who Serve Them — Services, Access, Navigation, and Interpretation (SANI project).

Grant: Dr. Virginia Wright, Dr. Sally Lindsay TRAIL Lab
Grant: Centre for Leadership grant, funded by Holland Bloorview Foundation
Kids, Virtual Care and the COVID-19 pandemic: learning from our experiences

New Publications!

The latest publications on childhood disability research from Holland Bloorview's research institute

Click here for the inside scoop!

Family Voice

Research has been an act of giving back for my family. Originally at Sick Kids Hospital and later at HB, we have participated in many projects as a family and my son as an individual.  He understands that some of the things he is involved in don't have a direct benefit to him (other than the usual DQ treat afterwards) but he does understand he is helping others.

We don't do much "feet on the ground" advocacy but participating, advocating for and sharing research is our way of contributing to the Autism community that has helped us immensely. It's a very proud moment when we see the conclusion of a project and know that we contributed to it.

Peter Welsh – Family Leader and parent of current/former Holland Bloorview client

Graduate Student Scholarship Awards Recipients

We are pleased to present the 2021-22 Graduate Student Scholarship Awards Recipients

Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarship in Paediatric Rehabilitation

Aliaa Gouda
Academic Year: Second-Year PhD Student
Supervisor: Dr. Jan Andrysek
Project Title: Development of a Wearable Biofeedback System for Lower Limb Amputee Gait Training 

Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarship in Paediatric Rehabilitation
Nicolas Ivanov
Academic Year: First-Year PhD Student
Supervisor: Dr. Tom Chau
Project Title: Reducing Barriers to Communication: Effective User Training to Improve BCI Viability 

Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarship in Pediatric Disability Research
Elyse Comeau
Academic Year: First-Year PhD Student
Supervisor: Dr. Timothy Ross
Project Title: Enabling Environments: A Study of Public Transit Accessibility Policy and Experiences

Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarship in Pediatric Disability Research
Isabelle Caven
Academic Year: First-Year Masters Student
Supervisor: Dr. Melanie Penner
Project Title: Multi-stakeholder Perspectives on Acceptability of Autism Therapies  

Read about their research here.

Congratulations to all the recipients!

BRITE Corner

The Bloorview Research Institute Trainee Executive (BRITE) is excited to announce their new summer pilot project, trainee exit interviews, commencing August 2021, and led by PhD students and past BRITE co-chairs, Elena Sheldrake and Vanessa Tomas! This initiative will provide the BRI leadership and Teaching and Learning invaluable insight into the experiences of research trainees at Holland Bloorview. Trainees will be asked questions pertaining to their experiences with available resources, the learning environment, training opportunities, and their research supervisor(s). From this, the BRI can learn how to further support and foster the trainee experience, from a variety of different research trainee backgrounds. BRITE hopes that these exit interviews will provide a more transparent, complete picture of the trainee experience within the BRI. All trainees, check your emails for more information this month. Feel free to reach out to if you, or anyone you know, is a graduating trainee that would like to participate!

BRITE would also like to welcome and congratulate the incoming co-chairs for the 2021-2022 academic school year, Aliaa Gouda and Isabelle Caven! Aliaa is a third-year PhD biomedical engineering student, under the supervision of Dr. Jan Andrysek in the PROPEL lab. Isabelle is a second-year MSc student in the Institute of Medical Sciences, studying in the ARC lab under the supervision of Dr. Melanie Penner. We cannot wait to see what amazing things they do this year with BRITE!

Staff Spotlight


It's no secret that Holland Bloorview is full of everyday heroes. But how well do you know them? Let’s get to know Ashleigh Townley, a Knowledge Translation Specialist at Holland Bloorview.

What did you want to do/be when you grew up?

  • When I was in kindergarten, we did an activity where we had to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up. Most kids drew a firefighter or police officer, I drew a princess. I don't think I quite understood how work or royalty worked back then, haha. 

What did you do before you came to Holland Bloorview?

  • Before I came to Holland Bloorview, I worked for a community health centre in Scarborough called Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities. I had a few different roles, coordinating a Healthy Communities Fund grant, coordinating an Ontario Early Years Centre and running after school programs for elementary school kids (teaching kids to cook was my favourite!). 

What is your role here?

  • I've been at Holland Bloorview for eight years and I am a Knowledge Translation Specialist with Evidence to Care. Our team works to advance and support an evidence-friendly culture where staff, families and clients, when appropriate, turn to research evidence and feel comfortable doing so. I love working with teams to figure out how to take research evidence from the pages of a journal article or clinical practice guideline and make it useful in their role; and also, how to evaluate our work beyond 'counting things', looking for what makes our work effective and meaningful to clinicians, clients and families. 

Biggest guilty pleasure?

  • Historical or period dramas - Outlander, Downton Abby, The Last Kingdom, Peaky Blinders, The Alienist... I love a rainy day with a good cup of coffee and one of these shows to binge!

Personal pet peeve?

  • Boxes of granola bars that come with 5 bars, when there is clearly room for 6. I'm sure some economist somewhere has done a calculation on the perfect bar-to-price ratio, and it drives me nuts. The box is a rectangle, there is clearly room for a 6th bar in the box. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

  • Hiking, Stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, reading, cooking, and hanging out with my husband and cat. 

Upcoming Events

  • BRI Symposium (November 15, 2022)

  • Listening to the Margins (Feb/March 2022)

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 Us

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 8,700 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 BRI Quarterly!