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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

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.

March 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!

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 (see May 2023 MScOT project).

February 2023

Virginia Wright led a Zoom-based Challenge course for a group of 24 physiotherapists in Brazil. Live translation was done during the course by our Challenge partner Ricardo Sousa, PT, PhD in Brazil.

January 2023

Virginia Wright completed the final of 4 sessions of teaching a Zoom-based Quality FM course for a group of 16 physiotherapists in the US (California and New York)