Design graduate invents toy system to fill ‘severe gap in autism toys market’

A university graduate has developed a new line of construction toys designed specifically for children with autism.

Called MAKA, the range of magnetic beads have been billed as a fidget toy that targets a specialist market ‘severely lacking in construction lines for children with autism.’

Developed by design graduate Toby Whelan, MAKA combines the Maker Movement’s ethos of empowerment through play while highlighting the developmental benefits of fidgeting.

A series of magnetic beads, each can click together to be made into a bracelet or pendant as well as played with on the go.. Each kit also comes with a resource pack for adults to use when playing with their children, featuring autism-friendly instructions and play guides.

“The idea of allowing children to make their own beads first came from visiting therapists at Drumbeat School,” Whelan told ToyNews.

“They showed me the fidget toys they used in their play therapy sessions and one of the most popular toys was a home-made piece of strong threaded with paper clips and random trinkets.

“The fact that these crude toys were so popular with children showed how the specialist market is severely lacking in any construction toys for autism.”

Having spent a lot of time with people with autism over the last few years, Whelan believed himself well-placed to embark on the project to provide the tools to empower children with autism through play.

His project has since seen him make a mark on the industry, culminating in special recognition from LEGO.

“There has been a lot of really positive interest from both the public and the industry, particularly at the recent New Designers exhibition where the project won the LEGO award for Playful Creativity,” continued Whelan.

“Simon Wiscombe and James Norwood, senior designers at LEGO really liked the project.

“Elsewhere, I was invited to speak at the specialist school Phoenix School and there has ben a huge amount of interest in the product from parents. In fact, I sold out of the units I brought when speaking at the conference so there is definitely demand for this product.”

Whelan has now outlined his plans to source more funding in order to finalise the product design and produce and initial run of units, eyeing Kickstarter as a potential platform to launch the project on.

This year’s Inventors Workshop will be at held at Whittlebury Hall in Northampton on Tuesday, September 20th, 2016. The event is set to bring together leading inventors, distributors, retailers, investors and design students, all of whom are looking to discover new ideas, make new connections and stay at the forefront of innovation in toys.

To book tickets to this year’s event, click here.

For sponsorship opportunities, and to be pitched to by inventors at the Workshop, email or

For general information on the event, email or call 01992 515305.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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