My youngest child Elijah came into our lives around the time of the London Olympics and has brought laughter and happiness into the family as the youngest of four siblings. He was eager from the start, arriving a few weeks early of his delivery date and has been a joy ever since. From the age of 15 months, I had begun to notice that he wasn’t as responsive to auditory cues that most babies responded to, and as he developed into a toddler multiple aspects of his physical and verbal development were either delayed, and in some instances, remarkably absent. After his 2 year checkup with our Health Visitor, we began the year long journey of understanding how and why he engaged with the world they way he did.
After many months of visits, evaluations and speech and language therapy, we received the diagnosis that Elijah is Autistic, or as more commonly known, has Autism Spectrum Disorder. It affects his motor skill development, hand eye coordination, wrist and finger dexterity, his speech and speech patterns, and how he comprehends and communicates with the world at home all of which is inextricably linked to his emotional responses to the world at large.
Naturally, I began to think about how he would do at school, having remembered the challenges of the primary school years with his older siblings.
He doesn’t make eye contact, how would he make friends? Would he be able to take part in PE? How would he get changed for PE? He needs a few more moments to respond to questions, how would he learn to read, write… the list of concerns went on as long as the day.
Fast forward to the future, and gratefully, he receives incredible support at school. I then set about trying to understand how I could support him in any other way at home other than just being his mummy. As most younger children with siblings do, he wanted to imitate what the older ones are doing. For Elijah this proved even more of a challenge given his developmental delays. I thought about how he could gain more confidence and independence in dressing himself, practicing his buttons, snaps, and laces.
I set about developing a device could hold different pieces, applications, and tools that he would want to engage with. It needed to hold his attention and be fun, not feel like learning at all, but more like play and interacting with something new for the first time. I thought about colours, textures, sounds, using true to life-size objects, and how to keep it organised so that pieces couldn’t be lost and it could be stored away. The idea has progressed to other things and many objects around and out of the house and the concept Kit & Caboodle was formed.
To ensure that it was fit for purpose, I sought out advice from the experts and took my idea to occupational and physio therapists and the response was overwhelmingly positive. These medical professionals explained to me that the possibilities for a device of this kind could extend to children living with other conditions that affected their upper limb mobility, like cerebral palsy, Dyspraxia and many others.
Kit & Caboodle
We understand that children learn through play utilising one of three or more methods, sight, hearing, or touch also known respectively as visual learning, auditory learning, and kinesthetic learning.
Our project work is designed on a developing a child’s vision of what is engaging and attention-grabbing; bright and engaging colours (visual stimulation), immersive mechanisms that offer audio feedback (audio stimulation) and tools with different feel and textures (kinesthetic stimulation).
Kit & Caboodle is a device that houses different internal components for practicing basic hand motor skills used in everyday life experiences. The applications focus on improving hand-eye coordination, finger movements, wrist flexibility, fingertip strength, and overall hand and forearm dexterity.
Each Kit&Caboodle case can hold up to four (4) plaques. Affixed to the four plaques are different applications for the user to practice.
There are several sets of plaques, the first set holds the most common clothes fastenings, the second set holds recognisable mechanical fastenings used in and outside of the home, and another set holds familiar household items that require complex wrist, and finger manoeuvring.
The device also has haptic features, offering sound cues as confirmation that the tools are being used correctly. An example of this would be an audible “click” sound when inserting a key into a lock, or a “swish” when turning a door handle to its full rotation.
Each plaque has an interface that speaks to a built-in mini-computer and collects data on how the applications are being used. For instance, when working with the door handle, the handle will register what pressure was applied and how often the handle was successfully used.
The data collected from the CPU is then linked to the Kit&Caboodle App, which is designed to offer different settings depending on the primary user.
For children, the app allows them to personalise their Kit&Caboodle and earn rewards and incentives in the form of “levels’, with each level offering gentle encouragement to help them continue practicing. There is also a friendly cartoon character that communicates with children as they chart their progress.
For carers and parents, the app allows them to monitor their child’s progress independently or communicate their child’s progress using the performance measurements tool to track their children progress if they are working with a medical professional.
For medical professionals, the app will also has an online platform, allowing them to communicate directly with carers and parents on what prescribed activities to regularly practice and also plot the child’s progress on a graph to demonstrate their progress.
Those early discussions led me forming a collaboration with researchers specialising in Sports Science, Kinesiology, and stroke rehabilitation from the University of Kent and also work working with the University of Wales, Trinity St David, and their affiliate children’s charity Cerebra, who support families with children living with brain conditions.
I set up the business Bonum iDeas Ltd and Bonum iDeas Cymru (Wales) to manage our academic collaborations with the universities based in England and Wales, as well the products development and commercial partnerships.
The team is comprised of myself as Managing Director, and Chris Richards and Mark D. Scally are Directors.
My background is based in the business sector and began with 7 years of military service, where I then moved into business working in executive support roles in corporate real estate and then to managerial positions within retail private banking.
Chris is a Director (Bonum iDeas Cymru) and is the companies business liaison for product development and business partnerships. Chris's career background spans both the UK and Asia over three decades is service, where he has served both the Metropolitan Police in London and the Royal Hong Kong Police Forces. He has also held senior managerial positions in the public and private sectors.
Mark is a Director (Bonum iDeas Ltd) and is involved in project management and is the business liaison for collaborations and partnerships. Mark’s career background is in mental health rehabilitation, and nurse psychiatry. His career began in the NHS and he progressed to having held senior operational roles for several NHS England trusts and independent mental health care providers.
As we are a start up with a lean team, our administrative support is managed internally and the product’s physical development is outsourced to independent companies to design (with direct input) and produce.
University of Wales Trinity St David, Swansea (UTWTSD)
Our relationship with the university originated from an introduction to children’s charity Cerebra. Cerebra has an integral connection the to institution and also works independently to offer support and build bespoke equipment for families that have children with impaired mobility and living with brain conditions.
We have been fortunate to be selected through their Accelerate program to establish a research team and work side by side with their academic team. Together we aim to bring Kit & Caboodle to children within the community via local charities and continue to work to extend that reach to local primary schools and hospitals.
Their research with observe the following:
- what physical challenges children encounter using with their upper limbs when using objects (shoulder, arm, wrist, hand and fingers)
- capture how children’s personal mental health and well being are affected by being immobile or having to rely on additonal help
- how practice and engaging with dedicated tools can foster a sense of independence and confidence
The University of Kent, Medway (UoK)
I established our relationship with the academic team from the University of Kent in 2015 to take our device and its capabilities to the next level. Our work with them is centred around maintaining existing motor skills and stroke rehabilitation. Sadly, we’ve learned that not only are children are susceptible to strokes, but often those living with physical impairment are caused by brain injury because of a stroke.
The UoK team is comprised of us and respected researchers who have designed research centred on developing tools that allows patients to practice with Kit & Caboodle in any rehabilitation setting.
MTC (The Manufacturing Technology Centre)
The Manufacturing Technology Centre is where the physical aspect and research outcomes of Kit & Caboodle takes form. The MTC is similar to a hub, where we meet with the design engineers, material experts, graphic artists and app developers and share with them our findings to make Kit & Caboodle the best it can be.
MTC believes in developing innovation that enhances the business and commerce for the UK, and actively invests in companies through match funding to help deliver projects. We have been successful in obtaining £6000 in match funding to get our final product design to its final stages, which concluded in May 2019.
What we are doing
From our early discussions with clinicians about meeting the many similar needs and requests of learning tools for families and primary school teachers, we learned that many had the same difficult experience of sourcing materials to help their children develop better skills and coordination.
Our work spans across a network of relationships involving families, carers, clinicians and physiotherapists. Our project is based and focused on helping all children have the best start in life and also helping children whose lives have already begun by building their confidence, giving them hope and opportunity to become more independent.
We’ll continue to work with them, utilising their existing network of families and medical professionals that they regularly support. We’ll also establish new relationships with other children’s charities that support families with disabled children. We will also work with local community centres to advocate and recruit volunteers for our project focus groups where we will gain insight on what families are experiencing, how effective their existing therapies are, and if they are receptive to working with our tools alongside their prescribed treatments.
Our work within the community begins in the home and will extend into the wider public.
How we will use the money
We are now looking to raise more funds to continue to our final phase:
- Finish the final manufacturing template and plans that we can then bring to any manufacturer to make and ensure it will meet EU and UK CE marking requirements (needed for all child and rehabilitation devices)
- Build and apply the Kit & Caboodle app and platform and get ready for product launch and market release
Your funding support will enable us to complete these final and important steps.
Once finished, we will have product that is ready for market, the rehabilitation centres, the primary education providers, and most importantly families looking to help their own children gain more independence as they interact with the world at large.