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Student’s Father Designs Device to Aid in Learning Experience

Vincent Massey Public School student's father designs handheld controller for son's computer

By Sarah Racioppa

A new device is changing the way that special needs students use their computers. This unique handheld controller system allows students with limited range of motion to use their computer independently. 

Nico demonstrates how he uses his new
controller during class lessons. 

The controller system was designed and created by Patrick, the father of Nico, a Grade 4 student at Vincent Massey Public School. Patrick, who has an engineering background, was tired of trying custom and complex devices that didn't work for Nico. Eventually, he simply decided to build a better system using software and hardware that already existed.

"He's going to have to be independent at some point in his life, so if he can start at 9 years old, that's important," says Patrick. 

Nico's teacher Mrs. Larocque sees the benefits to Nico using this device, "The controller allows Nico to experience a fully inclusive Grade 4 learning environment by transforming his ability to access all technology."

"I see the excitement that Nico has when he is able to use Google Classroom, documents, slides, and to read and write. He is able to collaborate with his peers," Larocque explains.

DDSB approved

Nico has been using Patrick's device since September 2017. After months of testing and refining a working prototype, the Durham District School Board officially approved the use of it for Nico and any other student in the school board.  

The controller combines the use of an X-Padder, a PlayStation 3 Navigation (single-hand) controller and other hardware.

The device uses a wireless input that allows students with physical limitations (i.e. Cerebral Palsy, Quadriplegia, Multiple Sclerosis) to access their computer using a mouse-like single handheld unit. It can be operated with minimal effort and physical control requirements.  

Vincent Massey PS Principal James Rowed sees opportunity for other students in the Board as well. "This is an opportunity that did not exist before," explains Rowed. "For Nico and other students in our board, this device now gives them freedom to express themselves and share their amazing ideas and knowledge." 

As for Patrick, he hopes the device will help other students like Nico who just want to interact and play video games with their friends. 


Durham District School Board
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Whitby, ON
L1R 2K6 Canada

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© Durham District School Board, 2013