Creatively altered toys thrill kids with disabilities
Published Monday, June 17, 2013 10:15PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 17, 2013 10:16PM EDT
Playing catch. Drawing a picture. Swinging a bat. For many kids with special needs, these simple childhood-defining activities have been downright impossible. Until now.
After winning a global robot competition earlier this year, students at a Toronto school for Grades 3 to 12 have decided to put their tech talents to a new use: developing accessible games for kids with special needs at a nearby school.
From a button-triggered catapult to a remote-controlled car that doubles as a drawing tool, students at Crescent School have adapted and modified classic games to make them accessible to kids with limited mobility.
The toys are easy to use but, more importantly, they allow kids to be kids, according to the father of a girl with a form of Cerebral Palsy.
“It just gives her a chance to do something normal kids can do,” Jim Ball told CTV News after playing a game of catch with his daughter using a catapult.
Like most kids her age, Hillary loves using electronics, said her dad. The inventions make it possible for her to enjoy many of the same games as her peers.
“A lot of times she doesn’t have the mobility to play with (regular toys),” Ball said.
The project originally set out to help kids with disabilities but has taken on a bigger meaning, said the school’s director of robotics.
“That idea of helping out your neighbour is real core to what we believe in,” Don Morrison told CTV News. “To create a toy that helps (a child) is very powerful.”
One invention, a touch-controlled race car track, takes a commercially built game and modifies it for kids who lack the necessary mobility to make it work: instead of pulling a trigger to make the cars go zipping around the track, you only need to rest a hand on a student-designed touch surface.
Thirteen-year-old Matthew Dowling, who has Cerebral Palsy, was particularly taken with the toy, according to his mom.
“I think it’s great,” Joanne Dowling told CTV News. “It’s hard for him to use the switches and he loves things like this.”
“Now that he’s a teenager, it’s harder to find things that aren’t so baby-oriented.”
With files from CTV’s John Vennavally-Rao