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Mother builds revolutionary device inspired by son’s autism

25 Jul Mother builds revolutionary device inspired by son’s autism

An entrepreneur and inventor from London is building a learning tool for neurodivergent children – inspired by the experience of her own son.

Carline Deal, 45, invented the Kit & Caboodle through her company Bonum Ideas, a device that allows children to develop their motor skills with continuous feedback from a companion app.

“Elijah is the youngest of four siblings, he arrived during the London Olympics in August of 2012,” said Carline, of Beckenham. “From the age of 15 months, he wasn’t responding to auditory queues children his age usually do. After many months of tests, we found out that he is autistic.

“It affects his motor skill development, speech, hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Therefore, he can often have trouble with interacting and communicating with the world at large.

“I was experiencing behaviour that I wasn’t used to with my first three children and I was worried how he was going to cope with motor tasks like putting on clothes and tying shoelaces.”

Carline wanted to build a device with different tools that would help Elijah develop and practice these skills – using various tools in one case to achieve this.

“I used a hatbox that I brought back from a wedding to inspire the design of Kit & Caboodle, experimenting with what I could fit into it and how I could design in a way that captured Elijah’s attention,” she said. “I set about trying to source manufacturers and design engineers, approaching inventive agencies and finding that, to take a step further, I needed to include technology that would be able to track a child’s progress.

“I’ve worked with the likes of Manufacturing Technology Centre and Altair to design the prototype and the software behind it. Both genuinely believe in the idea because they understand the wider application of it.”

Kit & Caboodle’s software will be designed to create an environment that tailors to progression – making it more difficult as children progress – creating a consistently challenging but not harsh environment.

“When I started to build it, I learned that there were so many other human conditions that could benefit from this,” Carline said. “My passion grew into something that could help everyone and when I introduced the concept to researchers at the University of Kent I also discovered how it could be useful for adults relearning their motor skills after having survived a stroke.

“It’s not that the brain isn’t equipped, it’s just the tools are displaced and need to be rearranged and developed.”

Carline partnered up with the University of Wales before the first lockdown and worked with the children’s charity Cerebra as one of the first projects they adopted for their programme – but as the product was in its early stage she was told it was too soon to be funded.

“My work on Kit & Caboodle slowed down during the pandemic but I picked it up again earlier this year,” she said. “We’re seeking angel investment for our final stages and know it’s going to change lives. I’ve personally invested a lot in this but I’ve seen first-hand how beneficial it is and I totally believe in it.”