Kingston researcher wins Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation


NEWS RELEASE — When a routine survey to assess the needs of people with access to support programs for their children living with neurodevelopmental disabilities revealed an unexpected finding — an increase in dangerous behaviors at home during the pandemic — Maude Champagne , a researcher at Queen’s University, decided to take action.

Today, his efforts to fill a gap in Canadian support services bring three innovations to the caregiver community: Canada’s first-ever Nonviolent Resistance Therapy (NVR) program, the first National Consortium on Family/Caregivers in Childhood and Adolescence (AFCCA), and a brand new AFCCA Family Support Programme.

Pioneering work earned Champagne the Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—Ph.D., awarded by Mitacs, a national innovation organization that drives growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. The award will be presented at a ceremony at the National Arts Center in Ottawa on November 22.

Champagne – a PhD researcher working under the supervision of Professor James Reynolds in Queen’s Department of Neuroscience – is credited with revealing a pattern of unmet needs for families serving as caregivers and for being instrumental in bringing groups together to design solutions. As the mother of five children, four of whom live with neurodevelopmental disabilities, Champagne is uniquely positioned to understand the daily challenges faced by the caregiver community.

“We knew at the start of the pandemic that caregivers were burnt out, so we thought we would do a survey of services to make sure their needs were being met, and as part of that we asked how they were coping during COVID. said Champagne, who interviewed families throughout the spring of 2020. “To our surprise, the most notable finding was that they were willing to open up about the assault on family members. and how it was made worse by the closures,” she said.

The survey – conducted through Champagne’s collaboration with Kids Brain Health Network (KBHN) and ABLE2, a non-profit organization that provides support services to people with disabilities – found an increase in daily verbal and physical aggression. , with some families revealing that they had been threatened. by their child with a knife or sharp object, or punched while driving. When going to their local emergency room for help, families were often told to go home because the hospital did not have the capacity to treat their child.

“Sometimes they had no choice but to call Child Protective Services and say ‘come get my child’ and that’s the last thing they want,” Champagne said. “Right away we knew we had to do something.”

When she could not find applicable resources in Canada, Champagne looked abroad and discovered NVR, an innovative form of systemic family therapy widely used in the UK to manage aggressive, violent, controlling behavior. and self-destructive among young people. KBHN quickly rolled out a pilot program and in the fall of 2020, interested families were participating in the 13-week intervention.

Next, she forged a collaboration between KBHN and Adopt4Life, an Ontario association for adoptive parents and caregivers, to fund and host a national consortium on AFCCA. The consultation brought together experts from across Canada, including people with lived experience, academics, policy makers and representatives from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and prompted further research to identify the challenges faced by young people who exhibit aggressive behaviour.

Based on these additional findings, which revealed increasing mental health issues, barriers to school and community belonging, strained family relationships and, in some cases, having to live apart from their family, Champagne is now working with Adopt4Life to build Ontario’s first AFCCA. Family support program from scratch. Parents and caregivers who need help can access resources by signing up to Adopt4Life’s existing Parent2Parent Support Network.

“We are trying to improve the quality of life for the caregiver and the child, so that all family members are physically and emotionally safe,” said Champagne, who hopes to see the three initiatives continue to grow.

Mitacs’ support was critical to the rapid deployment of responses, she added. “What research often lacks is collaboration with community organizations on the ground, which is why it often takes a decade or more for findings to be implemented as solutions,” Champagne said. . “Mitacs fills this gap. Since I was already associated with a community organization, people knew me and I quickly gained the trust of the caregivers I met. If they did not choose to open up, these supports would not be in place today.

The Mitacs Award for Outstanding Innovation—Ph.D. is presented to a Mitacs intern who has made a significant achievement in research and development innovation during their Mitacs-funded research.

Champagne is one of eight national Mitacs award winners, chosen from thousands of researchers who participate in Mitacs programs each year. The other seven recipients were recognized for outstanding innovation, commercialization or outstanding leadership in other areas of research.

In congratulating the winners, Mitacs CEO John Hepburn emphasized the importance of providing Canadian innovators with opportunities to develop experiential skills through a strategic partnership between industry, government and academia.

“These prestigious awards, now in their 12th year, celebrate the extraordinary achievements of Mitacs’ top talent and recognize the endless potential for innovation made possible when skilled leaders work together,” said Hepburn. “Mitacs is honored to play a role in helping to advance essential research and foster economic growth across Canada.

For more information on the Mitacs Awards and a complete list of winners, visit

About Mitacs

Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges through research solutions from academic institutions. It is funded by the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia, as well as the Government of Alberta, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Yukon. For information about Mitacs and its programs, visit

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