Traditional STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)-based learning activities may present barriers to individuals with physical, cognitive, and psychosocial disabilities. Recent developments in mainstream gaming, computing, and autonomous units, as well as “special needs” adaptive technology have made it possible to affordably customize STEAM learning.
Developmental Pediatrics and Rehabilitation at McMaster Children’s Hospital implemented a series of novel extracurricular participatory-based groups designed to introduce children to STEAM technology in an accessible and supportive environment, facilitated by therapeutic recreationists and a parent volunteer from the technology sector. A series of modules sequentially builds confidence and skills in technology use and application, with each module occurring synchronously with school curriculum to help reinforce learning outcomes wherever possible. Custom equipment adaptations ensures each participant maximizes potential at skill mastery and minimizes barriers they may otherwise face in traditional curriculum, improving participant self-esteem and confidence.
Feedback from parents and participants thus far show participants are applying their acquired math and programming skills from our modules to their school curriculum with success. Parents have also reported positive social outcomes at school through their child’s prior learning and being able to help their classmates.
With our ever-increasing reliance on technology, individuals with disability can greatly benefit from leveraging technology in eliminating barriers and potentially gaining valuable job skills that can be applied towards improved quality of life and independence.
Michael Berube, Parent Volunteer, Hamilton Health Sciences Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre
Alex Thersidis, Therapeutic Recreationist, Hamilton Health Sciences Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre
Carly Antonucci, Therapeutic Recreationist, Hamilton Health Sciences Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre
Lindsay Bray, Clinical Leader, Hamilton Health Sciences Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre