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Closing the Gaps

Integrating technology, clinical application and research to design impacting interventions for families of children with special needs

The importance of providing support to families of kids with developmental disorders and ASD is immense. Proper, consistent support can have a long term impact on the wellbeing of kids and their families.

A lot of great work is done by clinicians (SLPs, BTs, OTs) towards this end, but the reality is, time with clinicians is limited - if accessible at all.

This leaves families in a very challenging position. Parents must take on great responsibility - and the resulting stress - themselves, which is especially difficult without proper training or tools designed to help them.

A new model is needed

As our team has learned more about the cognitive development technology landscape, we’ve identified a number of problems leading to a lack of innovative solutions that help families:

  • Not designing with a focus on parents/families as primary facilitators

  • Poor consideration of the differences between the home environment and the clinical environment

  • Not drawing upon the most current cognitive development research when designing activities

  • Not generating data from the home setting - which can help clinicians as well as researchers further their understanding of how kids are learning - and help with ongoing feedback to advance design

  • Not effectively utilizing new, accessible technologies and game design to target and measure the development of specific cognitive and emotional skills

We believe these problems can be addressed, but in order to do so, we need to approach designing solutions differently. Gaps must be closed between researchers, clinicians and designers and collaboratively draw upon expertise to build effective interventions from the ground up. We cannot work in silos if we want to be effective and provide the best care and support possible.

To this end, we have established a collaborative partnership with Surrey Place - a leader in Ontario’s developmental services sector for over 65 years. Surrey Place provides family-centric support, and employs passionate clinicians (speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavioural therapists, etc) who provide essential services to thousands of families yearly.

This collaboration is allowing us to test a model that:

  • Converges Surrey Place’s pediatric cognitive development expertise with our game based design experience

  • Directly draws insights from the people providing therapeutic support in the clinic and at home on a day to day basis

  • Generates measurable outcomes

  • Creates a feedback loop between designers, researchers, clinicians and caregivers

  • Realigns our prior design work (narrative driven game play) with clearly defined clinical and research aims

The road ahead

We firmly believe that the convergence of design thinking, cognitive development research and clinical implementation will lead to ongoing innovation that will help families in need and further our understanding of how kids learn and socialize.

Towards realizing this vision, we have already taken some significant first steps:

  • Conducting a literature review focused on narrative driven interventions to determine how to target and measure the development of foundational cognitive skills

  • Interviewing families and clinicians within the Surrey Place ecosystem to determine specific challenges being faced

  • Integrating research findings to build product requirements for new interventions

  • Working with Surrey Place to identify and obtain funding support (grants, investment)

  • Seeking to connect with foundations, research centres and design talent (individuals and studios)

Of course, we know there is a lot of work to be done for this vision to fully manifest, but we are excited about this path we are traversing and the impact that can be brought to this underserved, but critical community.

As we progress, we’ll do our best to share insights we gain, but please reach out if you’d like to learn more or have expertise you would be willing to share.


Ram Puvanesasingham, CEO

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