All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology emphasise the importance of play for children

All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology Conference

Did you know that The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is the most widely sanctioned human rights treaty in history?

The United States is the only country that has yet to ratify this celebrated agreement – although it has signalled its intention to do so.

Article 31 of The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the child’s right to play as a fundamental human right, which highlights the importance of play within early child development.

The importance of play was emphasised at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology Conference last week.

Speaking at the All Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) Enabling Play Conference last week, Emma Lewell-Buck MP, the Shadow Minister for Children and Families, said: “Play is not an add on to education, it is an essential part of it.”

Delegates at the event highlighted the ability of play to help children develop:

 Independence and ability to make choices

 Self-confidence and self-efficacy

 Communication and social skills such as sharing, negotiating, the ability to resolve conflicts and self-advocacy skills

 Creativity and imagination

 Physically

 Cognition and problem-solving skills

 Learning readiness and learning behaviours

 Ability to learn by doing, so that they can explore and experience the world around them, discover their own areas of interest and the passions they wish to pursue

 Ability to express their views and even frustrations through play, allowing an opportunity to gain a fuller understanding of their perspectives

Sensory Guru aims to ensure that all of the products that it produces will enable children to have access to play and gamified learning experiences – no matter what their disability is.

Products such as the Magic Carpet and Magic Mirror:

 Have multi-user recognition to support group interaction

 Can be accessed using several access methods, whether it be Eye Gaze, Switch, Touch, Gesture, Sound, or Mouse, ensuring children can access and control the system using their preferred access method and supporting active play

 Have their own app store – with hundreds of games that can be accessed and downloaded – this ensures that games can be set at the level of the individual and go beyond simple cause and effect games

 Stimulate and engage participants, creating an immersive environment that fires the imagination like never before

Karen Bratchell, Nurture Room Leader at St Joseph’s Specialist School and College, said that the Magic Carpet: “Has brought so much out of our learners, their imagination just runs absolutely wild. They are pretending to be animals hiding in caves or take their shoes off and swim across the fish pond app!”

If you would like to see the benefits Sensory Guru technologies could provide to your school or organisation, please contact us for a complimentary demonstration.


Article 31 of The Convention on the Rights of the Child

“That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”


 

What is the difference between AR and VR?

Augmented and virtual reality have the ability to transform the way we experience the world – but what is the difference between these emerging technologies?

Augmented reality (AR) blurs the boundaries between the real and virtual world, by taking the existing environment and adding virtual objects to it.

This means that you could be sitting in your living room, watching dragons soar around the space.

Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, immerses users in an entirely virtual world.

Once you have placed a VR headset on, what your eyes can see is replaced with something completely different.

The VR world blocks out the room that you are sitting in and transports you to another world entirely. This enables to you to transported to the remotest jungle, or to the depths of space – all from your living room!

The immersive impact of VR is quite dramatic. All of the reference points of the room are removed, which can become disorientating and confusing for the user.

This means there are ethical considerations to take into account when using VR with people with certain disabilities.

Look out for our next blog which will explore this topic further.

How can visual and auditory stimulation help to activate the mind and harness positive emotions?

We Are Our Brains BookWe store different parts of a memory, such as sounds, music, objects, or people’s faces in different parts of our brain.

This means that when we try to recall something that has happened, we have to piece the various elements of the memory back together, by recalling information that is stored in the different locations.

Due to this, if certain sections of our brain become damaged, it can impact on our ability to recall all the aspects that make up a memory.

For example, people who suffer damage to their temporal sulcus (the part of the brain that remembers faces) sometimes lose the ability to recognise people, despite their being nothing wrong with their eyesight!

This may mean that they can’t recognise the face of the person that they are married to, but they can identify an object that belongs to them, such as their car.

Language and music are stored in the rear section of our brain, which is the last part of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

This means that Alzheimer’s sufferers retain their ability to speak and their musical aptitude, for much longer than other capabilities.

In We are our brains, from the womb to Alzheimer’s, Neuroscientist Dick Swaab recalls a professional pianist that started to experience memory problems at 58.

By 63, the dementia was so advanced that she could no longer retain information that was said or written, but she could still hear a piece of music for the first time and play it back from memory.

Over the next year her cognitive skills declined sharply, but she could still play the melodies she knew, an activity that gave her a great deal of pleasure.

According to Swaab, visual artists who have Alzheimer’s also often keep their artistic skills intact for much longer than other abilities. This is because artistic skills are stored in the rear section of the brain, which is least affected by the progression of the disease.

We at Sensory Guru, take this research into consideration when designing sensory environments for adults with Alzheimer’s disease.

Incorporating visual and auditory elements into the room can help to stimulate these sections of the brain which can help to activate memories that drive positive emotions.

We also create safe, relaxing spaces where levels of stimuli can be stripped back and controlled so that participants do not become disorientated and overwhelmed by the level of stimuli that surrounds them.

The incorporation of LED lighting also helps to create an atmosphere of calm within the room, while devices such as the Magic Carpet can help to keep the brain active, encourage communication and movement due to the number of applications that are installed on the Magic Carpet.

Magic Carpet also enables facilitators to make their own apps, which means that content can be personalised with, for example, a family picture or a participant’s favourite song, which can help to evoke key memories.

Making classrooms accessible spaces for children with Autism

Autism and Education in EnglandAn overwhelming 40% of parents who have a child with autism say that their child’s school does not adequately meet their needs, according to a report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism (APPGA) and the National Autistic Society (NAS).

Despite more than 1 in 100 children being autistic, Autism and education in England 2017, states that the needs of children on the autism spectrum are not well enough understood.

Parents often have to fight to obtain the help and support which their children are legally entitled to. This may be a place at a specialist school, or adequate support and provision that will enable them to thrive and make progress within a mainstream school.

Chloe Harwood, Design Manager at Sensory Guru, said: “Schools often underestimate the impact a classroom environment can have on a child’s ability to learn.

“Children with autism can have extremely complex sensory needs which can result in sensory overload.

“It may be the case that they struggle to cope with filtering any visual or auditory clutter, which means classrooms can be extremely stressful environments due to their cluttered walls, harsh lighting and poor acoustics.

“Classrooms need to be designed with the autistic child in mind. It is for this reason that Sensory Guru always incorporate flexible equipment into the learning environments that we design, so that the space can be adapted to meet the needs of the individual. This means that teachers can change the environment and reduce stimuli that can be overwhelming, in order to prevent sensory overload.

“The development of virtual and augmented reality is also a really exciting prospect when it comes to ensuring learning environments are suitable for people with autism, as it enables us to customise the space for an individual in real-time. Sensory Guru has some exciting developments within this area which are coming soon!”

MPs Huw Merriman and Maria Caulfield, Co-chairs of APPGA Inquiry into Autism and Education, have urged the government to develop a national autism and education strategy before the end of 2019, in light of the report.

They hope that the education strategy will “support local authorities to become more effective commissioners for children on the autism spectrum, and make sure that schools are equipped and welcoming to ensure that autistic pupils can thrive.”

Alarming statistics published in the APPGA report also include:

 Just under 50% children and young people on the autism spectrum say they are happy at school

 70% of children say that their peers do not understand them and five in ten say that their teachers do not know how to support them

 60% of young people and 70% of their parents say that the main thing that would make school better for them is having a teacher who understands autism

 70% of parents say that support was not put in quickly enough for their child

Nearly 70% waited more than 6 months for support and 50% waited more than a year

 42% of parents say their child was refused an assessment of their special educational needs the first time it was requested

40% of parents say that their child’s school place does not fully meet their needs

 Only 10% parents say they are very satisfied with the process of agreeing an education, health and care plan for their child

 Fewer than 5 in 10 teachers say that they are confident about supporting a child on the autism spectrum

Demonstrate your support for this campaign on the NAS website

Developing a reliable ‘yes’ and ‘no

Yes or no?Did you know that many people with a learning disability often do not have a reliable yes or no response?

They may say ‘yes’, and that they liked something, because they think that this is what you want to hear.

They may not have had many opportunities to give their opinions or make choices.

‘No’ can also sometimes be used as a declaration of independence, rather than as an actual response to a question.

Communication also comes in many forms and responding with yes and no can be cognitively demanding.

Instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, many people with disabilities instead will express themselves with an augmentative and alternative method such as pointing to a symbol, through sounds, switch, gestures, facial expressions, body movements or eye gaze.

All forms of communication should be encouraged and accepted.

Katherine Lewis, a Specialist Communication Teaching Assistant at Hazel Court Community Specialist School, said that staff at the school spend time at the end of each session in their Sensory Room discussing learners likes and dislikes.

Katherine said that: “The number and range of amazing apps in our Discovery Room, due to Sensory Guru’s Magic Carpet, gives our learners plenty of opportunity to make choices and talk about what they like and don’t like.”

This helps to develop learner’s social communication, autonomy and decision-making skills in a fun and relaxed environment.

Magic Carpet, comes with its own app store with hundreds of applications that can be downloaded. This enables you to search applications depending on the outcome that you would like to achieve, such as developing language and communication skills.

Sensory Guru is also a supplier of the full range of Tobii Dynavox products, as well as Smartbox Grid 3. We are also a preferred supplier of Rehadapt mounting solutions, ensuring that we can cater for all of your needs, whatever your preferred method of communication may be.

 

Grant Opportunities With BBC’s Biggest Fundraising Event Of The Year!

The BBC’s Children in Need annual fundraising event returns this Friday, with the aim of raising a record-breaking amount of money to support disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.

If you are a UK Charity, or not for profit organisation that works with children and young people, you can apply for a share of the funds that are raised.

Last year alone the annual fundraising campaign raised £60m and since its inception in 1980 the charity has raised over £890m!

There are seven opportunities to apply for grants throughout the year. The last opportunity to apply for funding in 2017 closes on the 1 December.

Grants include:

 Small Grants Programme, of up to and including £10,000 over three years, totalling £30,000. Grants can be applied for in March, June, September and December

 Main Grants Programme, for grants over £10,000 per year for three years. There is no upper limit for main grants, but most grants are awarded under £120,000. Funding can be applied for in January and September

This year, Asda is supporting BBC Children in Need by raising money to fund projects that will enable disadvantaged children across the UK to develop vital life skills through play. This is something that is extremely important to the team at Sensory Guru!

The supermarket chain has raised over £17m for BBC Children in Need since 2000.


What fundraising events are you holding to support children in need?

Can we support you in your fundraising efforts with the Magic Carpet? We would love to hear from you!

Perhaps you need some fundraising inspiration? Download our poster which is full of fundraising ideas!

 

Magic Carpet announced as finalist for BETT Awards 2018

Magic Carpet has been announced as a finalist for the coveted BETT Awards 2018.

The stunning app-based interactive projection system, is a contender within the Classroom Aids for Learning, Teaching and Assessment category.

Products within this category must support creative approaches to learning e.g. resource creation, resource delivery, resource presentation, communication, collaboration, information sharing, resource discovery, self-reflection, analysis, hypothesis testing, modelling, decision-making and simulation.

The Director of BESA, Patrick Hayes, who chairs the panel of judges for the Bett Awards, said: “This was a record year for the Bett Awards, with more applications from EdTech companies than ever before, coming in from around the world. This reflects the status of the Bett Awards as being the global gold standard when it comes to recognising excellence in education technology. The quality of applications was incredibly high this year, and judges had a lot of difficult decisions to make when deciding who the finalists should be. It is no mean feat to be a Bett Awards finalist, and huge congratulations should be in order for all of the companies who made the cut this year!”

The Magic Carpet will be marked by judges on whether it:

Is easy to use

 Provides valuable user guidance and information

 Stimulates interactivity and collaboration

 Has considered the wider e-safety context within the online environment

 Promotes creativity

 Is accessible and inclusive

 Promotes learning across the curriculum

 Helps schools with pupil assessment

 Is distinctive and innovative

 Provides value for money

Magic Carpet brings complex and sometimes staid subjects to life, capturing children’s imaginations and harnessing their attention — whilst making learning fun.

Students simply move over the projected applications to interact with the content. Movements are met with visual and auditory rewards, engaging visual, kinaesthetic and auditory learners.

Hundreds of applications can be downloaded from the app store, all of which are linked to the national curriculum. Teachers and students can also easily create and share applications that they have made within the app store community.

Teachers have said that the technology engages students so deeply that they are able to stand back, observe and facilitate the class, rather than having to control pupil behaviour and ultimately, when children are relaxed, having fun and engaged, they are learning at their best.

The BETT winners will be announced on the 24 January 2018.

BETT Awards 2018

How can colour be used to create ambiance and enhance the learning environment?

Colours have a range of emotional and subconscious effects that can help to reinforce different moods and even trigger biochemical responses.

It is for this reason that Sensory Rooms and Learning Environments designed by Sensory Guru, incorporate LED colour-wash lighting to create ambiance by bathing rooms in colour.

The colour blue, for example, symbolises and creates feelings of calmness. Studies have also shown that blue light can help to adjust a person’s circadian rhythm (a person’s internal body clock which tells them when they are asleep or awake), which can help to increase levels of energy and vigour.

This is because skin and photoreceptors in the eye are sensitive to the colour blue, which results in an increase of blood flow around the body. As a result of this, the colour blue is also believed to help relieve feelings of pain.

reen classroom environment

Similarly, the colour green is often used in classrooms to enhance learning and concentration; while warm tones of yellow and orange can help to create a cosy, friendly and nurturing atmosphere by evoking feels of happiness and enthusiasm.

Research has shown that orange and yellow can also increase levels of creativity and muscle energy because they lead to an increase in oxygen flow to the brain, which triggers increased mental activity.

Yellow lighting Sensory Room

Sensory Guru’s brand colour pink, on the other hand, is bright, playful ­and representative of an individual’s inner child. The colour inspires feelings of comfort, compassion and is often associated with giving and receiving care.

Rugby Free Primary School invest in Magic Carpet to support pupils’ learning and engagement

Rugby Free Primary School
Susan Milewski, Headteacher at Rugby Free Primary School

Rugby Free Primary School have invested in ground-breaking technology that can help to engage pupils, harness attention and control behaviour.

Magic Carpet is an interactive projection system that helps to stimulate and engage students by bringing complex and sometimes staid subjects to life.

Pupils simply move over the projected applications to interact with the content, which enables students to be up on their feet, immersed in the content and learning in a fun and interactive environment.

Amy Pohl, Computing Subject Lead at Rugby Free Primary School, said: “We have been searching for ‘wow technology’ to add to our computing provision. Sensory Guru’s Magic Carpet stood out for a number of reasons:

The Magic Carpet was mobile, giving us the flexibility on where we wanted to locate it within our building and enabling us to use it for small groups and in classrooms, as appropriate

 A vast range of apps were already available which will simplify teacher workload

 The system will allow us to easily create our own apps which means that we can tailor content to suit the needs of our children and curriculum

 An app store will soon be published which will enable us to share resources and ideas with other schools

 Sensory Guru came into the school to demonstrate their product and every pupil had the opportunity to have a go on the Magic Carpet. It was very clear from this that purchasing the Magic Carpet would be a good decision because every child was engaged and enjoying learning”

Susan Milewski, Headteacher at Rugby Free Primary School, said: “We are very excited about using the Magic Carpet. In particular, we are looking forward to building apps that can be shared with other schools through the App Store, as we are keen to reach out to other schools across the country. We will also provide Sensory Guru with feedback on new apps that are being developed.”

The Magic Carpet App Store provides a platform where staff can share, learn and develop their ideas. For example, teachers can share the lesson plans that they have developed around the content.

The App Store will also provide teachers with access to thousands of additional apps at easily affordable prices. This will help to ensure that teachers have access to relevant content to meet the needs of their class.

Susan Milewski, said: “We are delighted we chose Magic Carpet as one of the tools to move our computing provision forward. The children love the Magic Carpet, which means that they are engaged in activities and enjoying learning.”

Rugby Free School emphasises the key skills of English, Mathematics and Computing through its curriculum, whilst facilitating teaching through topics that can help to stimulate children’s thinking skills and encourage them to widen their educational knowledge and become independent learners.

The school’s philosophy is that children learn best when they are excited by, actively involved in, and have a clear purpose for their learning, which Magic Carpet aims to help achieve.

Magic Carpet - engaged children

 


If you are interested in finding the benefits Magic Carpet could provide for students at your school then please contact us for a complimentary demonstration.

info@sensoryguru.com

 

Magic Carpet receives 5* rating from leading disability magazine

Able Magazine CertificateMagic Carpet has been awarded a 5* rating from Able Magazine, the UK’s favourite disability lifestyle publication.

Tom Jamison, Editor of Able Magazine, said: “There was some truly outstanding products on show at Naidex 2017.” He decided to give Magic Carpet a five-star rating, which means that it achieved top marks in relation to:

Function: Is the Magic Carpet well made? Is it effective and easy to use?

 Form: Does the Magic Carpet look good? Is it stylish or mundane?

 Innovation: Does the Magic Carpet represent new ideas?

 Cost: Is the Magic Carpet good value for money?

Mr Jamison said: “With 500 apps included ‘in the box’ the possibilities for fun, education and stimulation are endless.”

The Magic Carpet is an app based interactive projection system. Users simply move over the projected apps to interact with them.

The Magic Carpet can be accessed through Eye Gaze, Switch, Voice, Gesture, or Mouse control making it inclusive for all.

This means the Magic Carpet is great for encouraging social interaction and communication. It also has further applications within learning, therapy and play.

Mr Jamison, said: “It’s great when we see a cracking product that will genuinely help a disabled person in their day-to-day life.”


Able Magazine has reviewed the best disability products on the market for over 20 years.

The Magazine aims to help disabled people make informed choices about the products they purchase and has become a trusted voice within the disability community.

You can access the review by following this link.

Magic Carpet receives great customer feedback

Infographic - customer feedback

Sensory Guru has offered free software upgrades worth over £3000, to their entire Magic Carpet customer base, in order to show their appreciation for their clients support and enable them to have access to the latest Magic Carpet software.

The feedback from clients has been outstanding. Altogether:

 98% of users described the App Store as “brilliant”

 95% said that they would recommend Magic Carpet to colleagues and friends

 97% described Magic Carpet as easy to use

Chris Burke, an IT Technician from Baginton Fields School described the Magic Carpet as a “phenomenal piece of equipment”.

Users have praised Magic Carpet’s ability to create fun, interactive and engaging learning experiences and the personalisation and choice that the App Store provides.

Chris Latimer, Head Teacher at Georgetown Primary School said Magic Carpet is “an excellence vehicle for children with complex needs to interact with learning”, because it is “fully inclusive to all needs and can be easily adapted for specific children”.

Susan Rose, an Early Years Practitioner at Haysholm School said Magic Carpet is an “amazing resource which has captured the attention of all pupils at all levels”.

She praised Magic Carpet’s ability to “reinforce learning across the curriculum” improve “access for physically challenged children” and “make learning fun”.

Lee Blemings, CEO of Sensory Guru, said: “At Sensory Guru we constantly strive to improve our products and services to offer great value for our customers. We are keen for all customers, both old and new, to enjoy the latest developments. It is their custom that has enabled us to grow and invest in new product enhancements and so we wanted to show our appreciation by giving something back.

“The App Store enables us to distribute content at a much quicker rate and receive immediate feedback from customers. This will help us to better tailor content to our users’ needs and provide a much more personalised experience.”

Find out more about Magic Carpet by following this link.