Chris Martin with a client and Movement Centre Executive Director Olivia Doerksen

The Movement Centre of Manitoba in Winnipeg specializes in conductive education rehabilitation, working with clients of all ages with neurological motor disorders to learn skills and functions that can be used in everyday life.

“What we look at doing is teaching people functional skills through a series of tasks that we do,” says lead conductor Chris Martin, who leads group and one on one sessions with clients. “The main aim is to teach functional skills that people are going to be able to use in their everyday lives to improve their quality of living.”

Over the last few years, the Movement Centre is one of several organizations in Winnipeg that Makers Making Change has partnered with to provide low cost assistive technology to people with disabilities.

For the Movement Centre, this makes it easier for some of their clients to take their devices home, and continue learning and benefitting outside of lesson time.

“Everything we do at the Centre, we want that to be transferable to at home, we want it to be easy to replicate. And one of the tricky things is it’s hard to tell a client that there’s a piece of adaptive tech or a piece of equipment that would benefit them, and then they open up a catalogue and see the sticker prices on some of those items,” Chris explains. “So it’s really helpful for our families to not have to swallow the price of some of that stuff, and it makes it a lot easier to transition back to home.”

One area in particular that Makers Making Change has helped with is in providing switch-adapted toys, which allows young clients to play independently and are great learning tools.

Being able to take the toys home allows the kids to continue learning at home, outside of session time.

Many of the adapted toys and switches come donated from build events, including an event on the International Day for Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd which saw Canada Life employees in Manitoba and Ontario make adapted toys.

This low cost model makes it easier for the kids to continue improving their skills, by making it easier to move on to smaller switches when they need to.

“If [the family] have to pay out of pocket a bunch of money for this one switch, they probably would continue using that even though it wasn’t pushing [the child’s] potential,” Chris says. “Now they have access to a variety of inexpensive equipment, we can continue to make that switch smaller and adapt more things to continue to push their potential and also so they don’t lose interest, so they’re not just stuck with this one thing that works with them.”

a Movement Centre employee holding up a switch adapted T-rex toy

Another big difference is the speed in which clients and their families can bring home their devices, not having to wait for funding or for the devices to come in. Chris notes in one case that he’d put a request on the forum for a device, and received in time for the next class with his client the following week.

“It’s huge, not only the low cost, but also that there’s not a long lead time in getting them,” he shares. “A lot of our families, if they are getting some funding towards them or if they are being covered by somebody, there’s still this really long waiting time where they’re unable to use this equipment that they need.

“[It’s] really good to simply say, ‘Hey, take a couple of these and start using these at home.’”

In addition to using the adaptive toys and switches for younger clients, the Movement Centre has also provided clients with other devices from the Makers Making Change library, including the LipSync, and the Utensil Holder to support independent eating.

“It’s great that the turnaround is me saying, ‘I think this would be helpful for somebody,’ and they drop it off basically immediately,” Chris says of Makers Making Change. “Anytime we’ve seen a need, you guys have really been able to come through and help us with that.”

Chris Martin adapting a toy

Going forward, Chris, who has experience with soldering and circuit boards, says the Movement Centre is looking at doing more of the making and modifications themselves, with the help from the resources on the Makers Making Change website. He’s already adapted a few toys himself.

“It’s nice to know not only do we have access to the switches and the library of devise you make, but also the resource for someone like me who’s competent to go in there and try and do it himself,” he says. “Because I can just go on the forum and see how somebody else did it instead of the trial and error.”