Ground-breaking innovations that help children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families receive a boost from federal investment
VANCOUVER, December 8, 2023 – Canadian children and youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDDs) and their families will benefit from a significant investment in Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN) from the Government of Canada’s Strategic Science Fund.
Kids Brain Health Network is the first national not-for-profit organization to focus on accelerating the implementation of solutions for neurodevelopmental disabilities. As a national network, it also receives significant funds and support from its many committed partner organizations. It aims to improve outcomes for children and youth with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder by developing and spreading evidence-based solutions in key areas such as early identification, early intervention, effective treatment and family support.
“We thank the federal government and the Strategic Science Fund Secretariat for this new investment that will continue to support our mission of helping kids with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. We are extremely grateful to our partners, who have contributed funds, time, expertise and their perspectives to our 14-year track record in supporting scientific discovery to create needed innovations,” says KBHN CEO Nicola Lewis. “We will continue to collaborate with all our partners at the national, provincial and local level to maximize the SSF’s significant contribution to our collective work ensuring translation of research and innovation into action.”
It is estimated that children and youth with a neurodevelopmental disability comprise 75% of young people with a disability in Canada. It can take years to receive a diagnosis or to get through the waiting list for other essential services such as occupational therapy or mental-health support. For parents and caregivers, feeling stressed, overwhelmed or isolated is not unusual, nor is facing financial hardship as a result of trying to meet their child’s needs. Everyday activities — like eating, sleeping, playing, and learning — can be extremely difficult for these children, especially when programs, services and infrastructure are not designed with inclusion and accessibility in mind.
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” says Kids Brain Health Network’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr James Reynolds. “Researchers are developing evidence-based solutions for these problems. Our network bridges the gap between science and practice so that these solutions don’t just stay on paper, they get implemented in the real world, where they can reach the people who need them.”
For example, with support from KBHN, clinician scientists have developed a program called Social ABCs for toddlers with language delays or early signs of autism. Trainers coach parents on how to improve their children’s verbal-communication and social-interaction skills through everyday interactions. Ground-breaking research shows that intervening at an early age, when a child’s brain is still developing rapidly, can make a lasting difference.
“Since I started the program, I feel much more confident,” said one participating parent. “The achievements of [my daughter] make us so happy. Each new word, each new action is the greatest happiness in the world, and I was part of it.”
“Research into solutions for kids and families living with neurodevelopmental disabilities is an excellent public investment,” says KBHN Board Co-Chair Geoff Pradella. “Better assessment tools, supports and systems would actually reduce the costs of neurodevelopmental disabilities to taxpayers in the long run. And most importantly, they will improve children’s lifelong well-being and participation in society.”
“The Canadian government has publicly committed to ‘a healthier future for all our kids,” Pradella added. “We know they believe, the same as we do, that every child should be given the opportunity to meet their potential.”
Announced in 2021, the Strategic Science Fund invests in non-profit, independent organizations that are positioned to increase the quality of cutting-edge research in areas critical to the health, economic and social well-being of Canadians; to develop, attract and retain world-class talent in these scientific areas; to accelerate the translation of research results into action; and to strengthen evidence-based decision-making, innovation-skills development and science culture.
About Kids Brain Health Network: KBHN is a national network that develops and harnesses scientific advances in technologies, interventions and supports with the goal of helping children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families live their best lives. The science of children’s brain health is making advancements and KBHN is bridging the gaps between these scientific advances and implementing solutions that directly address the needs of children and families. In delivering on its mission, KBHN is advancing federal responsibilities and priorities aimed at building a healthier future for all kids. More information is available at: www.kidsbrainhealth.ca/.
About the Strategic Science Fund: The Strategic Science Fund program (ised-isde.canada.ca/site/strategic-science-fund) is jointly administered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Health Canada. It aims to mobilize the expertise and resources of independent, third-party science and research organizations to enhance Canada’s science, technology and innovation excellence. SSF investments will achieve results for Canadians by addressing critical needs, such as supporting Canada’s knowledge economy, in ways that advance federal objectives. Read more.
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Communications Manager, KBHN