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Creating a world of possibilities for children with disabilities through research and innovation

April 2022

(covers news, announcements and happenings from January to March 2022)

Research MRI_Tom Arban Photography

Picture This

Thanks to a new Canada Foundation for Innovation John Evans Leaders Fund grant, the BRI will launch a new MRI imaging bank specifically for children living with disabilities – the first of its kind in Canada

Read more

Top Stories

Holland Bloorview launches Life Skills Guide
This guide gives service providers the tools to create programs that can empower youth to have a healthy and productive life as adults.

Read more

Funding boost for Social ABCs
Dr. Jessica Brian leads a new study to examine the effectiveness of a virtual parent-led intervention for toddlers with autism

Read more

For a full list of BRI stories, visit:

In the News – Media Spotlight

Experimental drug may help with ‘noisy brain’ in some with autism (CTV News)
Quotes Dr. Evdokia Anagnostou on a study she is conducting that is using the same experimental drug as a UK study, which examines how the medication works with adults with ASD.

‘Disabled, queer and fabulous’ find a place of their own in the dating world (Toronto Star)
Profiles Jay Baldin who is a former Holland Bloorview client and their experiences with dating as well as a new Facebook group they created to connect with others. Quotes Amy McPherson, director of the ProFILE Lab and her work on sexuality and kids/youth with disabilities. Story here. The article also ran in the St. Catharine’s Standard, Niagara Falls Review and

More media highlights can be found here.

Donation Spotlight

Image of 2022 Capes for Kids campaign

Thanks to the generosity of our own BRI researchers, staff and trainees, we raised $17,738.87 for the hospital’s Capes for Kids annual fundraising campaign. And we accomplished this in creative ways, from Dr. Tom Chau and Mani Kang’s pledge to match the first 40 $100 donations, to Mani being a good sport by wearing a custom ugly sweater for one week – a fun incentive for the first BRI Research Operations team member (aka BRIncredibles) to raise $1,000. Thanks to our Commercialization office for achieving this goal and for creating this masterpiece for Mani to proudly wear!

In total, 178 staff raised $100,514 this year through sheer ingenuity, creativity and fun. Since the Capes campaign started in 2017, the hospital has raised $4.4 million to fund vital research, programs and services, which are transforming the lives of kids with disabilities and their families.

Grants and Awards (January to March 2022)


Dr. Tom Chau (Supervisor)
Stephanie Bradley (Graduate Student)

Quantifying neural and muscle activations using exoskeleton-powered gait rehabilitation in children with cerebral palsy disclosure
PhD Research Grant
2021 – 2025

Dr. Angela Orsino
Teaching Advocacy in Clinical Practice: The Role of Critical Reflection – Paediatric Consultant’s Education Development and Innovation Grant
2022 – 2023

Dr. Jessica Brian
Parent-mediated intervention for toddlers with autism: a multi-site randomized controlled trial of a group-based virtual program that empowers parents as change agents
Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant
2022 – 2025

Dr. Laura McAdam
Dr. Andrea Hoffman

Rehabilitation strategies for children with spinal muscular atrophy treated with genetic-based therapies
AHSC AFP Innovation Fund
Ontario Ministry of Health
2022 - 2024

New Publications/International Talks

Here are the latest publications on childhood disability research from the Bloorview Research Institute from January  to March 2022.

Click here for more information

New BRI Resource – Research Communications Tool Kit

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

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) communicate 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

Annual Professional Development Day 2022

BRITE Annual Professional Day 2022

A huge thank you to all our trainees and scientists who attended the BRITE Professional Development Day (April 4-5), it was truly a success!

Over the course of two half-days, we heard from a variety of scientists and lived experience speakers about various aspects of technology in childhood rehabilitation.

We learned about what it’s like to participate in the development of new technologies as a client and research participant at Holland Bloorview, how important it is for scientists who are creating new technologies for children and youth to involve them in the development process to make sure the final technology is suitable for the user, the various pathways to get new technologies to the people who need them, and what it takes to start a research lab.

We are really blessed here at the BRI with close collaborations between research and healthcare!

BRITE Awards for Excellence 2022

Congratulations to this year’s recipients of the 2022 BRITE Awards for Excellence:

  • Excellence in Peer Mentorship: Nilou Hashemi
  • Excellence in Trainee Support: Ka Lun Tam
  • Excellence in Trainee Supervision: Dr. Shannon Scratch

Trainee Spotlight

Ilana Naiman, who is a PhD student studying rehabilitation sciences at University of Toronto and a research assistant at BRI’s SPARK Lab

Each year, over 100 trainees from universities across Canada come to the Bloorview Research Institute (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, Ilana Naiman, who is a PhD student studying rehabilitation sciences at University of Toronto and a research assistant at BRI’s SPARK Lab (Supporting Physical Activity-based rehabilitation Research for Kids).

How did you get interested in your field of research?

Throughout my life, I have been involved in sports and physical activity. I played basketball, soccer, and volleyball, and I also did weight training, karate and more. Through sport and physical activity, I have had pivotal social, physical and life experiences.

During my Master’s degree, I studied the fine motor skills of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). During this research, I learned that children with ASD participate in significantly less physical activity than their peers. This can lead to a higher risk of short and long-term health issues, as well as a lack of meaningful experiences and life-skills learning opportunities. Thus, I have tailored my research to find ways to help children with ASD to participate in more physical activity, so that they too can have the incredible physical, mental, and social benefits that physical activity has to offer.

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

I have been volunteering in the therapeutic playroom at Holland Bloorview since the summer of 2012. Seeing all the research going on in the hospital and seeing how it directly benefited the clients was an important factor in my decision to come to Holland Bloorview for my PhD.

This tight bond between Bloorview Research Institute (BRI) and Holland Bloorview allows me to work with amazing clients and families that are passionate about the research I am doing and allows me to work together with them to create projects that will truly benefit them and their children.

BRI has world-renowned scientists that I have had the pleasure of learning from and working with. Specifically, my advisor, Dr. Virginia Wright, who was a large factor in my decision to come to Holland Bloorview, is the lead scientist of the SPARK lab which focuses on physical activity for kids with diverse abilities. She also has international pediatric connections that are helping my research become known and get utilized around the world.

Additionally, my Master’s advisor, Dr. Cheryl Glazebrook who is now at the University of Manitoba and leading her own Lab in Perceptual Motor Behaviour, did her physiotherapy research placement working on a measure of advanced motor skills called the Challenge for children with cerebral palsy in the SPARK lab with Dr. Wright. Coincidentally, an adapted version of the Challenge for children with ASD (called the Ignite Challenge) is also a main focus of my current research.

Child health researchers like Dr. Jessica Brian, Dr. Fiona Moola, and Dr. Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos are also key reasons why I chose Holland Bloorview. These scientists are leaders in their respective fields and I am lucky to have these incredible scientists on my thesis committee to learn from and help advance my research.

What are you and your study team working right now?

Currently, I am working on finishing my doctoral thesis on the body language of children with ASD during physical activity.

My research has led to the development of the Body Language Coding Scale (BLCS) which is intended to be used by physical activity instructors to help them gain a better understanding of the body language cues that children with ASD use.

Children with ASD participate in significantly less physical activity than their peers. Several barriers have been identified as reasons for this, one being instructors often have a lack of knowledge and awareness about ASD and thus label children with ASD as simply ‘misbehaved’ children.

With a greater understanding of the differences children with ASD have and how they communicate, physical activity instructors can better adapt their teaching styles to benefit kids with ASD, thus creating a more inclusive environment that will help them have fun while participating and learning new skills. In turn, it will help parents feel comfortable in getting their child involved in physical activity programs.

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

There has been no research, to my knowledge, that assesses the body language of children with ASD.

When searching body language and ASD, the research that I have found is about teaching a child with ASD to better read a typical person’s body language. Thus, this research is the first of its kind that will open up many more avenues of research.

By improving an instructor’s awareness of the body language of children with ASD, I hope to improve their awareness in creating more inclusive programming and their overall physical literacy. Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life. Simply put: physical literacy is the key to living an overall healthy lifestyle.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy doing physical activities such as going for walks/hikes with my dog, playing basketball with my friends, lifting weights, and snowboarding. A new hobby of mine is scuba diving, and I recently got my open water dive certification.

Staff Spotlight

Mani Kang, director of research operations and business development

It's no secret that Holland Bloorview is full of everyday heroes. But how well do you know them? Let’s get to know Mani Kang, the director of research operations and business development, at the Bloorview Research Institute.

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

Growing up as a child I was never sure, but I always knew I wanted to work in a field related to the human brain. I was fascinated by it, and would watch countless hours of documentaries related to this. Going to undergrad only reaffirmed this which is why I pursued graduate studies in neuroscience; too bad I only found out by going to grad school I didn’t want to become a neuroscientist 😊. Fortunately, I am able to work in a field where I don’t have to completely abandon my interests with the human brain.

What did you do before you came to Holland Bloorview?

Before I started in this role at Holland Bloorview, I managed the diagnostic research and innovation portfolio at the University Health Network (UHN). I was in charge of the research medical imaging portfolio for UHN, Sinai and Women’s College Hospital, while also being responsible for laboratory medicine research operations at UHN. I learned so much, and actually saw my first tissue block during this job!

What is your role here?

I’m the Director of Research Operations and Business Development. My job is a bit multi-purpose. My portfolio is a mix of administration, sales & business development, and the most fun part: exploring innovation. For example, I may start my day in a meeting about budget issues, jump to a call with industry where BRI is providing a service for a fee, and then end with discussions on how to operationalize Canada’s first multi-organ imaging bank in pediatric disability. At the core of my portfolio, it is a multidisciplinary team of highly dedicated leaders and staff; literally, without them none of this would be possible.  

Biggest guilty pleasure?

Snacks! I’m a real sucker for sweet things, and unless you physically yank it out of my hand I will ‘finish the box’. Those that have worked closely with me, especially in-person, know this and in fact, at some point my nickname was Cookie Monster within my team at UHN. We had a wonderful colleague, who is now retired, that would bring cookies from an amazing bakery near her house into the office on a recurring basis for everyone; well, if Mani was in the office there was a good chance he would be back for seconds, thirds, fourths…etc. As I start to age, I am considering asking my wife to buy one of those timed locked containers for snacks at home!

Personal pet peeve?

People who don’t get to the point. I once took a DiSC personality assessment, and I was a pure D. For those that don’t know, a D rating means you are results oriented or sometimes referred to as ‘bottom-line’ oriented. Perhaps this explains it, maybe the psychologists amongst the readers can tell me if there is any merit to my theory!

What do you like to do in your free time? 

Right now, I don’t have a lot of free time. When I do get free time, I love to hang out with my dog especially going for long walks in the park.

Upcoming Events

June 1, 2022 | Pursuit Award international competition
Register here starting May 2nd

June 3, 2022 | BRITE Networking Event (in partnership with Holland Bloorview Commercialization Office). Register here or contact

July 19, 2022 | Ward Research Day

November 2022 | BRI Research Symposium

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 7,000 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!