An innovative aquarium featuring coloured lights and speakers has inspired a special needs child in Sanford, Maine, to speak for the first time at school.
The girl said her first sentence at school when she saw the tank at the Fraser-Ford Child Development Centre at Waban.
The IQUARIUM was designed by Eddie Hanson, whose son, Daniel, also attends the school.
Hanson explained to Blooloop how he came up with his innovation, “I ran the largest aquarium store/design/maintenance company in the SF area for 10 years back in the early 2000’s. The problem with aquariums in general is that they tend to get boring after a while. I was always revamping the aquarium for new looks to make it exciting again for customers.”
He realised that adding a TV to the aquarium would offer unlimited background themes which customers would be able to select and change easily. Hanson was working on a smaller unit to use with a tablet (hence the name IAQUARIUM) which could be used for sales demonstrations on the road, when he noticed that his son was entranced.
“I remember working on my prototype on my kitchen table and was playing with the lights that change color. My son Daniel who is autistic noticed it right away and grabbed the remote control and started changing the lights on his own. I tried to teach him colors at that moment and he got some right. Like I would ask him to turn on blue, red, white, etc. Then I turned on the music and the water inside the speakers started to dance. Daniel was mesmerized and held up the speaker smiling.
I knew at that moment that my little fish tank was going to be really good for special needs children like my son
“Then I set the whole thing up with fish and slid in Daniel’s Ipad for him to see. Wow! He was all smiles and really focused on the Ipad. There were so much stimulation going on with the video, audio, speakers, lights, etc. I knew at that moment that my little fish tank was going to be really good for special needs children like my son. I was thinking perhaps playing teaching materials on the Ipad would be great, since the kids would pay more attention looking through the fish tank to whatever was playing on the Ipad.
“My son would sing along or even try to count through the fish tank. Learning and having fun is what makes my aquariums so special.”
Hanson thinks the appeal could extend beyond children with special needs.
“Months later I donated a unit to charity, a local raffle to raise money for foster care kids. Children were lining up to see and play with my aquarium. I knew right there that not just special needs children, but all children would enjoy it.”
Hanson donated a unit to his son’s school and the teachers have reported very positive learning outcomes. In addition the process of learning to take turns while feeding the fish has also fostered social and behavioural skills.
“All the kids loved the aquarium, and even one child started to talk looking at the aquarium. Something triggered and now the girl is talking a lot in class. Teachers have told me that overall verbal communication has gone up.”
Hanson says that his goal is to “get my aquariums into each and every classroom for all children to enjoy. I plan on donating more prototypes to Autism schools this month.”
He will be launching a kickstarter campaign in the near future.
What would be really wonderful Hanson says, is if his IQUARIUMS could attract some star powered backing. His ideal patron would be Ellen DeGeneres. The US talk show host is of course the voice of forgetful fish Dory in the Finding Nemo movies, and a supporter of causes helping the lives of children with special needs.
In the meantime the IQUARIUM will take pride of place in the new autism wing to be completed this autumn at Daniel’s school.