Accessible educational software motivating children with disabilities to participate more fully in therapy and education

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Accessible educational software motivating children with disabilities to participate more fully in therapy and education

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

An innovative and accessible learning system consisting of a unique computer interface and fun educational software for children with disabilities.

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Plot your innovation within the mosaic of solutions
Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Product Design Orientation

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Cognitive Fitness

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

The inclusion of children with disabilities in regular education classrooms has led to advances in merging therapuetic and educational activities. It is important for therapy to be integrated into educational activities so that children with disabilities are not "taken out" of class for physical, occupational, or speech therapy. Our product promotes both educational and therapuetic activities in one device.

Children with disabilities who want to use educational or recreational software are limited to the computer access device available to them. Alternatively, the software designed for children with disabilities has also been limited to the computer access device. Historically, the computer access devices for children with disabilities have been very simple. For example, children who cannot manipulate a mouse may use a switch; a one-touch large button with a one click input. Therefore, the experience for the user with a disability is not very compelling or interactive.

Cosmo's Learning Systems, our product, provides a hardware and software solution to this problem. The computer interface device has four analog buttons, a microphone, and the ability to plug 4 switches into the front of the device. The software is controlled by the interface device, Mission Control, and is interactive, educational, and fun. The computer interface device can also be used with off the shelf software and can be "mapped" to any keyboard or mouse function.

What is your signature innovation in one sentence?

An innovative and accessible learning system consisting of a unique computer interface and fun educational software for children with disabilities.

Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?

AT KidSystems has developed Cosmo’s Learning Systems to motivate children with disabilities to participate in therapeutic and educational activities. Cosmo’s Learning Systems consists of an accessible computer interface device called Mission Control and educational software that collects data and measures outcomes in both therapy and education. Mission Control features a new technology called aFFx Activators which has changed the landscape of current rehabilitation tools and educational software available to children with disabilities.

What barriers exist that are creating the problem your innovation is hoping to address/change?

Children developmentally aged 2 to 8 cannot fully access the computer with a mouse or keyboard. Subsequently, a child with cerebral palsy may be unable to use a traditional mouse or keyboard due to spasticity or lack of motor coordination. Current developmentally appropriate software designed for children with disabilities is limited by the functionality of available access devices. Mission Control can be used with off the shelf software and can be mapped to any mouse or keyboard function.

Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing.

Cosmo's Learning Systems is available for purchase by therapists, educators, clinics, and consumers. In addition, we have loaned units to Assistive Technology centers throughout the US so that end users have a chance to use the product and ensure that it is appropriate for their need.

We have conducted and continue to conduct research studies with children with disabilities that focus on feasibility, impact, ease of use, and progress. We have evaluated the product with children with a variety of disabilities including, but not limited to: cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, Autism, learning disabilities, and general developmental delays. Based on the feedback from these studies, we continue to improve our product.

How do you plan to scale your innovation?

Currently, the product consists of a computer interface device, one software title, a curriculum guide, and magnetic manipulatives. We plan to create additional software titles for children with developmental ages 2 -8 years. In addition, we will develop "age-appropriate" software. A child who is 16 years of age with a developmental age of five years needs software that is "age-appropriate" for a 16 year old however focuses on content goals appropriate for a five year old child. Each new software title will contain a curriculum guide and set of manipulatives. The interface device, Mission Control, can additionally be used with off the shelf software. Susequently, we are actively pursuing partnerships with software development companies within and outside of the assistive technology industry to develop software that uses the full functionality of the interface device. The product is also available through a variety of major resellers in the educational and assistive technology fields.

Provide one sentence describing your impact.

A disruptive technology that motivates children with disabilities to participate more fully in educational and therapeutic activities.

What impact has your innovation had to date? Exactly who are the beneficiaries of your innovation?

The impact of Cosmo's Learning Systems is in providing a new level of interactivity, accessibility, motivation, and fun for children with disabilities in educational and therapeutic environments. There are no products in the market today with the functionality of Cosmo's Learning Systems and Mission Control.

Approximately 13% of all school-aged children in the United States have a disability, defined as needing assistance on one or more activities of daily living. The global percentage of children with disabilities is comparable. Most conventional tools for therapy (physical, occupational, speech language, and recreational) and education are low tech and do not integrate therapy with activities of daily living such as education and social interaction.

How many people have you served directly?

Approximately 60 Cosmo's Learning Systems units have been sold in the United States. 25 of those units are currently being used in a school district in Georgia. The number of children using the technology each day varies however, there are approximately 25 children in each classroom.

How many people have you served indirectly?

While it is impossible to project a number, this product has been used by hundreds of children, through avenues such as sales, research, and clinical deployment. In addition, educators, therapists, and parents have all been involved in the development of this technology. We hope that this innovation ultimately reaches all 13% of school-aged children with disabilities in the US.

Please list any other measures reflective of the impact of your innovation

Cosmo’s Learning Systems was completely conceptualized and designed by end-users – children with disabilities, children without disabilities, therapists, educators, assistive technology practitioners, and parents. Mission Control has revolutionized the design and use of educational software in the rehabilitation and education fields.

What are the main barriers to creating your impact?

Because the technology is new, it is imperative to get it into the hands of our target market to really "feel" the innovation. We are unable to hire a direct sales team to blanket the country so we are relying on early adopters and partnerships. There is also a catch-22 situation with software development companies that want to see customer use of the product before designing software specifically for the interface. We continue to seek out innovative companies that understand the technology.

How is your initiative financed?

Initial development of the product was financed through research and development funding from Small Business Innovation Research grants. The product was refined through end-user testing and clinical trials. The manufacture and marketing of the product was financed through a private equity offering that yielded the initial run of the product as well as marketing collateral.

Provide information on your finances and organization: annual budget, annual revenue, number of staff:

The annual operating budget of the company is $250K. The company has three part-time employees. Annual revenue for 2006 was approximately $20K.

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Once the technology is adopted as the interface design of choice for children with disabilities, the demand includes schools, clinics, therapists, parents and families of children with disabilities. Schools and educators would use the technology in each classroom. 13% of all school-aged children have a disability. Therapists and clinics would use the technology for therapy. Parents and families of children with disabilities would use this in the home for education, play, and therapy.

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

The main barriers to financial stability are: adoption and acceptance of the technology within the special education and assistive technology industries; identifying and securing partnerships with software development companies and resellers; and continued product development to enhance the current system.

The Story
What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

Dr. Corinna Lathan is a leader in the field of human interface technologies. In 1999 she founded AnthroTronix, a human factors engineering company specializing in the design and development of advanced human-technology interfaces for computers and robotic systems. As President and CEO, Dr. Lathan has led the development of AnthroTronix’ core technology: multimodal interfaces that combine a variety of input modalities, such as voice- and gesture-recognition, to control electronic devices. AnthroTronix’ innovations earned the company the honor of being named a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in 2004.

Prior to founding AnthroTronix, Dr. Lathan was a professor of biomedical engineering conducting research with the National Rehabilitation Hospital. She was taken aback at the lack of technology for children with disabilities to manipulate and explore their environment. Dr. Lathan’s research indicated that using robotic technology to motivate children with disabilities would be successful and beneficial. Her passion for leveraging the power of technology remains the cornerstone of AnthroTronix' work in the rehabilitation field while contributing to other industries through technology transfer.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material

Dr. Corinna Lathan is Founder, Board Chair, and CEO of AnthroTronix, Inc., a biomedical and human factors engineering product development company launched in 1999 to focus on advanced human-technology interface solutions. Dr. Lathan is also CEO of a new AnthroTronix subsidiary, AT KidSystems, Inc., which was created to release Cosmo’s Learning Systems™ – an alternative computer interface and educational software for children with disabilities.

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate? (this is confidential)

We received an email from a colleague to look into the contest.