Design for Difference: Cognitive Enhancement Toys for Children with Developmental Delays
Childhood is a phase where children explore, learn and enjoy. For some children, this phase is full of difficulties. These children suffer from either developmental delays or learning difficulties. According to sources, there is a iniquitousness of 1.5-2.5% of advancing delay in kids below 2 years of age in India. Development is described into five different domains - gross motor, fine motor, speech, and language, cognitive and socio-emotional. These children need help at an early age to overcome developmental delays and for cognitive enhancement. Both parents and teachers are involved with children right from an early age, and they can devise ways to help these children. Many schools adopt 'Play' as an important activity to help these children overcome developmental delays and "toys" are mostly central to the design of such activities.
The paper describes the design research for designing toys for cognitive enhancement of children with developmental delays between 2 and 5 years. In the first phase of research, the interview method was used to understand what kind of learning difficulties children face and what kind of methods are employed to teach them and understand what types of toys they are using. The sample size of 20 comprising of teachers, therapists, and pediatricians from Special schools and departments for special need children in mainstream schools was used for the interview purpose. Observational studies with children (5 different classrooms with children between 3-5 years age) were carried out to understand how children learn and use the toys. At the end of the first phase, the qualitative analysis led to the shift from learning difficulties to developmental delays. In the second phase, a survey of available products in the market was conducted to understand what types of toys are used to address these children's developmental activity. Mapping the play methods employed by the teachers and therapists to the toys' activities led to finding the Design gap. The design process incorporated the research findings. The product is designed in the form of a Toy Box with a multi-utility set of toys for cognitive enhancement in children with developmental delays. The design (three sets of toys) addresses children's communication, spatial, cognitive, gross motor & fine motor skills with developmental delays. The designed product was put through user testing twice to incorporate the findings from the testing to make the design more user-friendly for the children and the teachers, therapists, and parents.
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