Olivia smiling in her wheelchair while using brain computer interface technology.

Giving back

Helping youth gain independence through technology

Dec 20, 2022

First-time parents, Stephen and Elana, recall Olivia being a happy baby, experiencing many developmental milestones in the first year of her life. However, as Olivia grew older, she wasn’t keeping up with other kids her age.

Initially, Olivia was diagnosed with global developmental delay, but would later be diagnosed with Rett syndrome – a genetic condition where a child loses the abilities gained in the first year of their life. Rett syndrome can impact speech, movement and body coordination.

“You can imagine, as a parent, seeing your young infant develop and then all of a sudden begin to lose those abilities. It’s devastating,” says Dr. John Anderson, Medical Director with the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital’s Brain Computer Interface Program.

Turning thoughts into action

Olivia smiling in her wheelchair while using brain computer interface technology.

Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital is leading the development of pediatric Brain Computer Interface (BCI) technology – a non-invasive procedure that turns brain signals into commands. The hospital’s BCI Interface program gives youth facing significant neurological challenges a means of communication. As a result, this life-changing technology often leads to improved physical and mental well-being.

Transforming lives at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital

In Edmonton, Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation is helping youth like Olivia through its BCI device lending library. This initiative ensures that youth living with severe neurological disabilities can receive access and support within the community and at home. 

Today, Olivia is using BCI in her own home to learn how to control her wheelchair, move objects and play independently with loved ones.

“It is absolutely mind blowing to see what Olivia has been able to do,” says Stephen Terry, Olivia’s father. “My heart is filled with joy to see her engage with other kids and have other kids engage with her.”  

TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is an independent registered charity that supports the well-being of youth facing obstacles reaching their full potential. TELUS Community Boards and TELUS Friendly Future Foundation Innovation Grants support visionary organizations like Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation to help youth with severe neurological disabilities live more independent lives.

Learn more at friendlyfuture.com