Children with special needs benefit from CanAssist devices

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    VICTORIA – Children with special needs now have more opportunities to play independently and participate more easily in activities with family and friends, as seven unique technologies arrive at child development centres (CDCs) throughout B.C. in November 2018.
    CanAssist at the University of Victoria worked with the BC Association for Childhood Development and Intervention and CDC staff to select technologies that would be most useful for children with special needs in these CDC environments.
    Innovations include:
    * an accessible gaming controller that enables children with limited hand function to use popular video-gaming systems;
    * a ball launcher, which allows children who are unable to throw independently to play ball with others and with pets;
    * an app designed for children who have difficulty communicating, which provides a way for them to point to pictures on a tablet to clearly indicate their choices;
    * a mobile music therapy kit that enables children who are unable to play regular instruments to create music independently or as a group to simulate a “jam session”;
    * a device that looks like a small, spinning roulette wheel that helps children indicate choices and learn how to use an accessibility switch – a critical milestone for many kids who have difficulty communicating verbally;
    * a remote-control car that can be operated by children who do not have the dexterity to use a similar commercial toy; and
    * a robotic grabber that assists children who do not have the ability to pick up and move everyday objects on their own.
    “It touches my heart to know that these technologies are helping children learn important skills and support their independence while they participate in fun recreational activities,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “This kind of innovation helps children join in where previously their disabilities may have limited their participation and inclusion in community. How can that not mean more fun, more learning and more joy for everyone?”
    This project, which was supported by a $1.5-million contribution from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, allowed CanAssist to refine seven prototypes originally developed for individual clients, purchase parts, assemble and test the devices, develop user guides, create instructional videos and a website for the CDCs, and ship the technologies to the centres around B.C.
    “This project has been a remarkable opportunity to make innovative technologies available that will benefit children with special needs around the province, whether they are located in rural communities or larger urban centres,” said Robin Syme, executive director, CanAssist.
    CanAssist is dedicated to helping people of all ages and from across the disability spectrum improve their quality of life, with a focus on promoting independence and inclusion. As part of this work, the CanAssist team develops innovative technologies and programs to meet needs that are not currently addressed by existing services. CanAssist’s vision – “A society where all people have the opportunity to participate, contribute and reach their full potential” – supports B.C.’s accessibility goals for people with disabilities.
    Quick Facts:
    * Staff at the 32 CDCs selected which technologies would be included in the core suite that each of them receives. In addition, each CDC could choose two “bonus” technologies from the suite of seven.
    * As of mid-November 2018, five technologies have been provided. The final two will be delivered early in 2019.