A playful tangible and multi-sensory tool set to encourage the bonding between parents and their visually impaired child
Physical & Social
professor dr. Matthias
Project members: Roxanne Bartels, Leonie Copraij, Kyara Fasen & Isabel Leus. Various therapeutic experts at Bartiméus
Bartiméus: dr. Paula
Sterkenburg (organization for
blind and visually
Roos van Berkel (liaison
Physical & Social Rehabilitation squad)
Miause is presented at Bartiméus as potential
further development innovation project. An article about Miause is also published in the newspaper of the association Bartiméus Sonneheerdt in 2018
Design challenge, approach, methods, results & contribution
This project is about improving the bond between parents and their visually impaired child within the age range of 6 months to 3 years old using playful objects. All children need to have a secure bond with their parents or caregivers in order to develop themselves on a social-emotional level (especially between the age of 6 months and 3 years). Parents or caregivers can create a safe bond with children when they are able to correctly mirror or verbalize their emotions. Children with a visual (and mental) impairment express their emotions in a different way. This may lead to difficulties for the parents or caregivers with interpreting their child’s behavior correctly. This misinterpretation can cause frustration and anxiety for both the child and the parent(s). Therefore, it is important to stimulate the bond between parent and child, to create a better understanding of eachother. Parents or caregivers of children with a visual impairment may therefore profit from a playful tool that stimulates bonding in a non-visual manner. In collaboration with Bartiméus, we designed with the following challenge in mind: How can we create/ design playful objects that stimulate bonding between parents/caregivers and
visually impaired children between 6 months and 3 years old?
A playful object, MIAUSE, was designed to stimulate the bond between parents and their visually impaired child between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. This design consists of three objects: a cat, house, and booklet. Each object has lots of possibilities for several bonding techniques like auditory, tactile, visual mirroring and joint-attention, which have been proven to stimulate the parental bond. Other techniques used to improve bonding or increasing interest are close contact, in-out practice and fantasy stimulation.The cat and house stimulate exploration, mirroring and joint attention by using of multi-sensory stimuli like sound, light, texture, bright colors, and color contrast. Furthermore, they contain visual similarities
to motivate mirroring. The booklet is meant to guide the parents of the child; it contains a story to create a narrative for both to play in and to connect the cat and house, along with some suggestions for executing bonding behavior.
Why I loved this project?
After a design project for visually impaired as part of the course 'Tactile Experience' in the first year of my bachelor I knew I wanted to design for special need groups. Therefore I signed up for the Physical & Social Rehabilitation squad. This project was the first in which I could implement my love to design for the empowerment of vulnerable target groups; and in which I could fulfill the needs of a client, Bartiméus! Being able to really add value for a client, and for families with a visually impaired child was amazing. Therefore, in particular I loved the expert interviews and co-reflection session with three outpatient counselors who work with these families, supporting their bonding processes between parents and their visually impaired child. How open they were to give our team advice on how to improve our "sensory farm mat" design direction, practical aspects around it (implementability) and to tailor towards psychological bonding principles as mirroring and joint attention. It was a pleasure to bridge the gap between the field of design, social science and psychology.
Secondly, I found it interesting how to enhance my empathy for the visually impaired children. Therefore, together with 2 other team mates I participated blind-folded in a tour around the van Abben museum in Eindhoven (the entire tour). Those experiences made this project so cool. Not only being an outsider, designing for a vulnerable target group, but really diving into what it is like to not see a thing.
Furthermore, I loved to explore sensory interactions which is of great importance for visually impaired. Due to the target group, I had the chance to improve my soft material prototyping skills and therefore learned various sewing techniques in the Wearable Senses lab.
Finally, that I was able to organize two user studies in which we could evaluate the efficacy of two iteratively created prototypes of Miause was special. That these two families were open to contribute to innovative research, and also actively engaged in playing with Miause at their homes was great. It was very special to see that interacting with the playful sensory tools already created a lot of joy for both participating children and parents, showing its potential.
This project gave a kickstart to design researching within the context of healthcare, empowerment , social engagement and the use of tangible probes.
SUMMARY OF REFLECTION
I changed my technology & realization goal to improving prototyping skills by learning sewing skills in the Wearable Senses Lab and sawing, drilling, gluing skills in the Vertigo workshop and apply it for every prototype needed. I clattered big pieces of soft materials; sewed lots of parts for the horse pillow (realization 1), cat ears and the cat pillow (realization 2 until 4), stitched bells on the tales of the cat (realization 3, 4). In Vertigo I learned to use several drill bits (house); work with the foam cutting machine (nose of cat); gluing different materials onto each other when working on the various prototypes.
In the area of User & Society I had 2 goals that I wanted to achieve because I have most interest in this area. That is also one of the reasons why I chose for a project in the Physical and Social Rehabilitation squad. I wanted to manage to get in touch with harder to reach target groups instead of choosing participants on convenience. Therefore, I chose Bartiméus as a client because visually
impaired children are hard to reach because of their vulnerability and therefore protection against too many tests. To deal with this I chose to be one of the contact persons for communication with experts from Bartiméus. In this way I made appointments with them about the first user test. At the end of this first user test I managed to arrange a second test, by talking to the ambulant worker who was with us during the test, with a younger visually impaired child based on the results of the first user test. I learned to be pro-active, goal-driven, communicate clearly and to be patient. As a second goal I wanted to improve my user testing skills focusing on methods for executing qualitative user tests. In order to achieve this goal I did the first user test because then nobody of the group had any
experience which challenged me to find out methods on my own. I learned about useful methods by Roos’s (Roos van Berkel, LMAnalysis) movement analysis workshop; asking Roos for advice. For communication methods, with visually impaired children, I looked at literature research (internet, books from Bartiméus) and observed the communication between Minette, ambulant worker, and the visually impaired child during the first user test. From this I learned to use several qualitative methods (interviewing, observation, interfere in play) in one user test to get the best results. Moreover I learned that having the right communication tools, as being patient, mimicking, asking, helps getting better results.
I had not set goals within the area of Math, Data & Computing from the beginning but felt the urge to improve my data analyzing skills after doing the first user test. That is why I chose to organize discussion sessions after the two user tests to force myself to prepare useful analyzation methods and applying those together with my team mates. I learned to develop ways to organize lots of
feedback from several stakeholders into useful compressed information for the follow-up iteration which gave me confidence in extracting the right information in an efficient way.
Regarding the design process I learned to involve multiple stakeholders as the client, experts, users (visually impaired children) and parents to create a design that most suited their needs. I learned to decide which feedback from whom to take with me into further design process stages and to communicate this to the client. What I found most important to take with me in future projects is that I
learned to be more pro-active in doing the design process when it feels like I do not have enough information to carry on. For example, when the client has not provided specific information on the problem they want us to solve or when the arrangement of user tests goes slowly.
Concluding, I learned lots of new skills in the areas of Technology & Realization, User & Society and Math, Data & Computing and learned to be more pro-active in doing the design process. Because I missed the opportunity of improving my programming skills I will shift this goal to semester 2 by attending the course Making Sense of Sensors and trying to implement it in my design research
project. Moreover, I want to develop my analyzing skills further because I have the feeling that I made proper methods myself in this project however they lacked literature evidence. This by attending the Design Research course this semester and doing the design research project upcoming semester.