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This year with the theme of Real life, real impact: Research that changes lives.

With a focus on family engagement in research, the day highlighted the impact and value that comes from engaging families in research beyond the role of a participant. This was featured prominently in keynote talks, scientific TED talks, quick hits and poster presentations.

Hosted by Tom Chau, vice president of research, and family leader Susan Cosgrove, the symposium offered a ground-breaking opportunity for attendees to contribute to a research vision where family engagement was at the core.

Quotes from families

"Opportunities for researchers and families to share their ideas and perspectives with one another are valuable. These opportunities enhance understanding and knowledge on both sides, can promote greater family engagement in research, and, in essence, help researchers and families work together to identify, guide and shape research which is significant and meaningful."

Anna Pallotta, Research Family Engagement Committee (RFEC) co-chair

"By working collaboratively with scientists, the family voice impacts research to ensure that the results are meaningful for the end user or ‘stakeholder’."

Jan Magee, vice-chair of the RFEC

"Families can provide essential input during all phases of research resulting in more appropriate and needs based focuses. As an RFEC member, I am more involved, informed, and can influence and drive current and future research to address what matters most to families.”

Suzanne Jorisch, RFEC member

"A lot of times families with children of special needs feel so helpless, but by being recognized as a specialist to your own children and given the opportunity to be a part of the research team that listens to what research is important to families and how it can affect the quality of life for their children, this gives a great sense of purpose and satisfaction that cannot be explained."

Sharda Ali-Ramjattan, RFEC member

"The family voice can help bridge the gap between pure/applied science and addressing day-to-day needs to improve quality of life for clients and families."

Kyoko Davis, RFEC member

"One area where we have particular success and interest is from graduate students attached to the Institute, who are at a point where they have to develop their own research projects. They are eager for input and particularly interested in hearing from patients and families, because they are keen to be doing work seen to be relevant and applicable to the community. This is an excellent area for a nascent program to start - and an opportunity, of course, to establish new behaviours with the next generation of researchers."

Gideon Sheps, RFEC member

Research talks

Research Talk #1, Centre for Leadership in Innovation

A long-term clinical evaluation of the all-terrain knee: In the lab and out in the community

Jan Andrysek, scientist

Research Talk #2, Centre for Leadership in Participation & Inclusion

Exploring dis / abling activity settings with young people with complex impairments

Barbara Gibson, senior scientist, and Gail Teachman, post-doctoral fellow

Research Talk #3, Centre for Leadership in Child Development

Development of a training program in advocacy for parents/caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder

Salina Eldon, site coordinator for the autism treatment network, and Philippa Howell, family leader

Research Talk #4, Centre for Leadership in Acquired Brain Injury

Mindfulness-based yoga for youth with persistent concussion symptoms: Bridging functional and neurophysiological outcomes

Melissa Paniccia, Ph.D student and Maddy Hearne, study participant

Mickey Milner International Professorship Lecture

Dr. David Nicholas

Dr. David Nicholas, PhD, RSW, is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary, and is cross-appointed to the Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta. His research addresses quality of life, employment support and transition in disability, family support, parenting, family-centred care, chronic illness and neurodevelopmental disabilities, with a focus on autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Presentation title: "Sticking together whatever the weather": Family Experiences in Autism Spectrum Disorder from a Lifespan Perspective

Learn more about the 2016 Mickey Milner Professorship Lecture Keynote

Notable Awards

Whittaker Award

To commemorate Dr. John Whittaker’s dedication to improving the quality of life of children with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities, his family and friends have established an annual award. The John Whittaker Memorial Award rewards outstanding contributions in research, service, or product development that improve the quality of life of children and youth with cerebral palsy or other developmental disabilities. The 2016 recipients of the Whittaker Award are scientist Amy McPherson and family leader Gideon Sheps.

Graduate Student Awards

The 2016-2017 Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarships in Paediatric Rehabilitation ($20,000) winners are:

Katie Mah and Sam Shi

The 2016-2017 Kimel Family Graduate Student Scholarships in Paediatric Disability Research ($20,000) winners are:

Patrick Jachyra and Eric Smart

The “Whipper” Watson Graduate Research Studentship Award ($10,000) winner is:

Luisa Garzon

The Holland Bloorview Foundation Graduate Student Scholarship ($10,000) winners are:

Alex MacIntosh and Tiffany Toong