HOW I MADE IT: Shreena Hirani and BrainBuild

A 21 year old University graduate, Hirani set about developing an educational toy to aid children with autism. She talks to ToyNews about the successes and plans for BrainBuild.
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The toy I have designed is called BrainBuild. It is an educational toy designed for primary school children with autism.

The idea of BrainBuild is that it helps them with their learning and communication skills.

Many people with autism have hypersensitivity with their senses so the colours used are pastel and muted to avoid frustration from the user. There are three versions of the toy: Emotion Empire, Nitty Gritty Numeracy and Literacy Land.

Emotion Empire is a four player game where kids have to work together and stack the blocks to show the face of the emotion written on each side of a base.

Meanwhile, with Nitty Gritty Numeracy, a number is displayed on the base and the child has to stack blocks which have numbers and symbols to match the number displayed.

Literacy Land sees kids play out a word while stacking blocks that have a letter on them to spell out the word.

For all three versions, if the blocks are correctly stacked then a green light turns on, if they are wrong a red light turns on.

My overall aim for the BrainBuild project was to create an educational toy. I took inspiration from building and construction toys such as LEGO, Mega Bloks and K’NEX.

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The market is filled with many different educational toys, and after researching different disabilities in order to find out what support was needed from a new line of toys, I realised a lot of work was needed for children with autism.

A lot of toys for autistic children today are ‘fidget toys’ which do not really improve their educational skills. From my research on autism, I noticed that a lot of these children needed support at school as they tend to learn academic skills slower than children without autism.

I believed there was a gap in the market that could help educate children with autism as well as help to get them to interact with other kids so they didn’t feel as lonely or left out.

A lot of people have already that this is a great idea and should be developed further into a marketable toy. While designing the toy, I visited support workers and parents of autistic children, who all thought the BrainBuild was a good idea.

This project has also been a learning curve for me. I arrived at University not knowing what area I wanted to go into, but during the three years, I have really taken to toy design.

I now see a future in toy design, I love working alongside kids and I love designing products that help with their development.

Now that I am looking to take the BraiBuild project further, I am considering options such as Kickstarter to help me get this developed. I hope that one day I will see BrainBuild on the shelves of Early Learning Centre or Toys R Us.

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