Latest Research Projects

Here is an overview of recent research projects that the Family Support Institute is involved with, either as co-lead or community partner.


Self Injurious Behaviours (SIB) Workshop Series


Families and caregivers of children and youth impacted by Self Injurious Behaviours (SIB) is a 6-part educational workshop series combined with peer supports. 

Workshop sessions will take place throughout 2021 and into 2022, and are part of a research project being conducted by the Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Anamaria Richardson. 

This project aims to promote education around severe SIB, create a supportive SIB community, as well as advocate for better health outcomes.

Impacts of Mental Health on Parents of Children with Disabilities and COVID-19


Family Support Institute is co-leading a research project with the University of British Columbia (Jennifer Baumbusch), Mental Health Research Canada, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), to better understand and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of parents and caregivers of children and youth with special needs in British Columbia.

Understanding the Disparities in Access to Essential Services for Youth with Disabilities and their Families

Fall 2019 & Spring 2020

Family Support Institute is co-leading a research project led by the University of Calgary, and supported by the Canadian institutes for Health Research (Dr. Jennifer Zwicker). This project is designed to understand the disparities in access to health, education, and social services for youth with disabilities and their families in Alberta and BC, across various stages of life. 

One of the main objectives of this research project is to design policy recommendations and inclusive approaches to improve access to services. We have developed an Advisory Committee to help reach the objectives of the project and to help disseminate the work.

Outcomes from this project are directly aimed at influencing policy that will improve integration of services and supports for optimal brain development of children and youth with developmental disabilities, and working collaboratively with decision-makers.

COVID in the Early Years Project

APRIL 2020-2021

Family Support Institute is involved in a research project with the University of Northern BC (UNBC), Northern Health (NH), and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA). This community participation study is exploring the pandemic’s impact on the early years (ages 0-8 yrs) across Northern communities.

The team working on the COVID in the Early Years Project consists of people occupying a variety of roles — nurse, professor, service provider, researcher, student — to name a few. Participants come to the project with a different lens, and each of these viewpoints culminates into a common thread that gives purpose and meaning to this research. 


At its base, this research means listening to families and getting to share in a little bit of their life. The goal is to gather what struggles and triumphs they find most important and impactful, and share these findings. From this, we can inform policy and service development to ensure that the services and supports they access best fit their needs. In this sense, research means amplifying the voices of those that may not regularly be heard, and allowing them to have an active role in determining what services they need and want.

Community Voices on Tapping into Tech


Even before the pandemic, many families, living in rural and northern parts of BC, raising young children with extra support needs faced barriers to accessing a wide-range of supports and services for their children’s early health, development and wellbeing. COMMUNITY VOICES ON TAPPING INTO TECH is a province-wide, community-driven research project aimed at improving families’ access to early child development (ECD) and health resources and services in rural and northern BC. 

TOGETHER, we will explore ways that information and communication technologies (including apps, texting/messaging, social media, videoconferencing, etc.) can be used after the pandemic, as additional, long-term ways for families to access information and connect with services in addition to in-person options. 

OUR GOAL is to listen to and learn from Indigenous, non-Indigenous and newcomer families, children and service providers in rural and northern areas of BC about their experiences and ideas about using technologies for this purpose, especially families who experience social, economic and geographical barriers to in-person ECD information and services.

This project is funded by the Vancouver Foundation and is co-led by Dr. Alison Gerlach from the University of Victoria, Jason Gordon from the BC Association of Child Development and Intervention and a ‘Tapping into Tech Community Council’ made up of grassroots child disability advocacy groups, rural and northern parent, young people with lived experience of disability, and ECD frontline providers as community researchers, and university researchers. The Council guides and supports the project, ensuring the voices of the community inform the research design and mobilization of the findings. Family Support Institute, is funding a Parent Reference Group that will help to bring diverse parent voices to the research process.

This two-year participatory action research project has the potential to make a large and lasting impact on the provincial ECD early childhood system in BC by mobilizing community knowledge(s) to tailor information and communication technologies in response to the lived realities, preferences and resources of northern, rural and Indigenous families, children and ECD providers.

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved – please contact Project Manager, Theresa Hunter at

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