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The SPARK Lab, Supporting Physical Activity-based rehabilitation Research for Kids, conducts clinically-integrated, leading-edge research and knowledge translation activities related to gross motor skill evaluation. They also evaluate innovative interventions focusing on the enhancement of physical activity, functional mobility and related participation, and the overall area of physical literacy. Read more about the SPARK Lab Mission.

The SPARK Lab is part of the Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Dr. Virginia Wright leads the SPARK Lab, bringing together a team of professionals with expertise in pediatric rehabilitation, movement science and physical literacy enhancement.

If you are interested in learning more about our research projects or to become involved in a study, visit our Research page.

What's new

May 2024

Stefanie Bradley, doctoral student with the PRISM and SPARK Labs is awarded the University of Toronto 2024 Collaborative Program in Neuroscience Distinguished Neuroscience Doctoral Award for her structural MRI brain research with children with cerebral who are receiving a program of robotic assisted gait-based physiotherapy. 

April 2024

Our Trexo study research abstracts (“Feasibility and Goal-Based Outcomes of First-Time Implementation of an Assistive Lower-Limb Exoskeleton in a School-Based Physiotherapy Program for Young Children with Cerebral Palsy” [Bradley et al.] and “Use of a Walker-Mounted Pediatric Lower-Limb Exoskeleton in a Primary School Setting for Children with Cerebral Palsy: Insights from a School-Based Physiotherapist Team” [Holanda et al.])  have been accepted as scientific poster presentations at the American Academy of Development Medicine and Child Neurology conference in Quebec City in October 2024. We will also be part of a multi-partner mini-symposium on “Robotic Mobility Aids. Answering the question, “Will my child benefit?” [Condliffe et al.]

March 2024

The print version of our paper entitled: Wright FV, Wright A, Bauve C, Evans K. (2024). Getting into the game: evaluation of the reliability, validity and utility of the Ignite Challenge scale for school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder.  is published in the peer-reviewed journal Disability and Rehabilitation

February 2024

Our Trexo study research abstracts have been accepted as a podium presentation (Bradley et al.) and two scientific poster presentations (Wright et al., and Bradley et al.) on our feasibility study, therapists’ experiences and mechanomyography results at the European Academy of Child Development conference in Bruges in June 2024.

February 2024

Virginia Wright led a second Zoom-based Challenge courses for a group of 25 physiotherapists from CP Alliance in Australia. 

Zoe Saffran and Elshaimaa Abdella join our team as SPARK Lab volunteers helping out on our Trexo and Lokomat and PUFI-2 projects.

December 2023

Daniela Chan-Vicquez (PEARL and SPARK Labs) successfully defended her thesis entitled “Exploring the use of home-based mixed reality video games to enhancetherapies for children with cerebral palsy (CP).”

Virginia Wright led a Zoom-based Challenge course for a group of 20 physiotherapists from CP Alliance in Australia. 

November 2023

Virginia Wright travelled to Australia as the invited visiting scholar for four weeks at Novita Services, a community-based rehabilitation centre for children and adults, in Adelaide. This is the continuation of 10-year partnership in which we have worked together on funded projects including the Switch Access Measure validation, the Activities Boost challenge WalkAide project, and the Ignite Challenge validation.

September 2023

Martina Coulas joins the SPARK Lab research team after completion of her Master of Kinesiology placement with us to keep working on our Trexo project with Stefanie Bradley and our Body Language Coding Skills training program materials with Dr Ilana Naiman.

July 2023

Tracy Shepherd and Anne Marie Renzoni presented our Centre for Leadership funded project (2021-2023) entitled: “AAC outcomes in school: Feedback on a new augmentative and alternative communication functional impact questionnaire (FIAAC-E) (paper)” at the International Society for Alternative and Augmentative Communication (ISAAC) Conference in Cancun, Mexico: July 24th – 27th, 2023.

Dr Jennifer Ryan, SPARK and CONNECT Lab member for her doctoral work (successfully defended December 2022) won the 2023 Pursuit Award First Prize for her doctoral thesis entitled “Evaluating the Feasibility of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation as an Adjunct to Physiotherapy in Children and Youth with Acquired Brain Injury”. The Annual Pursuit Award recognizes PhD students and recent alumni from across the globe for their outstanding contributions. 
May 2023

Tracy Shepherd (Co-Principal investigator with Anne Marie Renzoni and Virginia Wright) presented at the Child Health Symposium (London, Ontario) on the initial results of our Centre for Leadership project conducted with the help of Bloorview Authority School entitled “Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Functional Impact Questionnaire for Schools “.

Lisa Artero (Co-Principal investigator with Virginia Wright) on our international PUFI-2 upper limb prosthetics project presented with U of T MScOT students Maria Falcon Obregon and Marlie Clark at the Association of Prosthetics and Orthotics Clinics Annual conference in Minneapolis on our Centre for Leadership funded study results for the project: “Getting the Prosthetic Upper Limb Functional Index (PUFI-2) into Clinical Use: Examining Clinician Experiences Using the Web-Based Measure in Pediatric Prosthetics Community”.

MScOT U of T OT students Sofia Mirazazada and Kristin Torchia (co-supervised by Drs Jennifer Ryan and Virginia Wright, SPARK Lab) presented “Clinician's perspectives on motor learning strategies in pediatric brain injury” and the CAOT Conference 2023: Hybrid, May 10-12, 2023.

April 2023

Our Trexo robotics walker study officially started with the very first participants to use this new robotic exoskeleton at Holland Bloorview. Our Trexo research is body-wide in scope, looking at impact on the brain, muscles, and functional movements of upper and lower body and child engagement in physical activity. Primary funding for this project is from the CP Alliance Research Foundation, the Kimel Family Pediatric Rehabilitation Graduate Student Scholarship, and Holland Bloorview Centre for Leadership. We are using our new Trexo exoskeleton that was generously donated by the Holland Bloorview Foundation. More details to follow on this collaborative project between PRISM and SPARK Labs. This feasibility study that is taking place until the end of December 2023 in partnership with physiotherapists and physiotherapy assistants in the Child Development Program and Bloorview School Authority (IET) is co-led by doctoral candidate Stefanie Bradley and Dr Virginia Wright and Dr Tom Chau. See Say hello to the future: Click here to read about the story: Using robotics to push boundaries.

Martina Coulas started as a University of Toronto MKin 8-week full time student in her research placement with our SPARK Lab team with primary focus on the Trexo project.

The SPARK Lab move to the High Performance Hub is successfully completed and our Lokomat robotic treadmill gait trainer is successfully moved and back in working order after two years of being off line due to the effects of the restrictions associated with the COVID pandemic and then awaiting its new space. Our CIHR Lokomat study is now back on deck for its final year.

Spring 2023

Ilana Naiman successfully defended her PhD in the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto. Thesis title: Exploring the Body Language of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) during Physical Activity. She started as a post-doctoral fellow in the PEARL Lab (Dr Elaine Biddiss) in April 2023. Congratulations Dr Naiman! She will continue to collaborate with us to finish the creation of the Body Language Coding Skills training program materials.

Jennifer Ryan (former doctoral trainee in the SPARK Lab until Fall 2022 and now post doctoral fellow in Dr Donald Mabbott’s Lab at Sick Kids) presented at the International Brain Injury Association 14th World Congress on Brain Injury in Dublin Ireland. Her main talk was on the 10 year retrospective review of use of the GMFM with children with ABI, and the poster was on SLPs’ and OTs’ Perspectives on Motor Learning Strategies in Pediatric Brain Injury. We will continue to collaborate with her on our robotic gait and motor learning work.