Charlotte HickeyProduct Design BSc
Developmental Toy for Hearing Impaired Children
Nine out of ten deaf children are born to hearing parents; many of whom have little or no experience of deafness, making communication one of the biggest challenges for deaf children and their families. Language development tends to be delayed in hearing impaired children compared to their hearing peers. Echo aims to help these children during the early stages after diagnosis, through features that promote language acquisition and listening skills via interaction with the toy. As Echo talks or sings, LEDs in the ears give a visual cue to the child that they should be hearing a sound, encouraging them to actively use their hearing aids or cochlear implants in a fun and engaging way. Designed for the home environment, Echo promotes human interaction and bonding with parents and siblings through storytelling and play, and supports families in understanding their child's audiological needs. Echo was designed for children up to the age of five years, as this is the most important time for them to develop their social skills ready for when they start school. However, some children are diagnosed with a hearing impairment later than five years old; for this purpose, Echo comes in a tiered range of products centred around features and functions that are suitable for a child of a specific developmental stage, allowing older children to benefit from the Echo product range. Inclusively designed, Echo can also be enjoyed by hearing children, as language is fundamental to every child's social development. Echo's sensory features, such as lights, vibration and 'crinkly' feet, enhance its play value for any child, intriguing the child's curiosity and promoting tactile feedback.