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Brian Hoare: CPtoys™

It takes passion and dedication to innovate a game-changing tool for children with cerebral palsy (CP), traits that Dr Brian Hoare has in abundance. His CPtoys™ app makes toys-as-therapy an easy choice.

Toys for therapy

Dr Hoare, an occupational therapist, researcher and trainer for therapists working with children with CP, is the creator of the CPtoys™ app.

The world-first app helps parents match the right toys to help their child’s therapy program.

“Providing effective, goal-directed upper limb therapy for children with CP is much more than just “playing with toys”. In order to acquire new skills and learn, activities must be carefully matched to the ability level and age of each individual child”, Dr Hoare said.

“To treat children, we look at their goals, then at an activity, and work out whether the two are aligned. It’s about finding the right sort of activity to get them to the next step. In young infants, they need to be able to use their hands, and that’s through play.”

“Our understanding of hand function in CP has increased dramatically over the past ten years. We know what to target to improve how children use their hands (independent of the type of CP). The earlier you help them learn and do what they need to do, the better their outcomes,” he said.

Home programs

All evidence-based therapy includes a structured home program. It’s a pragmatic way to obtain the intensity of practice required for children with CP to learn. However, parents can find it difficult to know what they need to practice in order to reach their goals. That’s where the app comes in – it takes the guesswork out of that equation, matching goals and skills with toys.

“We know that kids with CP take 2-3 times longer to develop skills than their peers. They need practice activities that are moderately challenging. These must also be motivating and fun to provide lots of opportunities for repetitive practice and learning,” Dr Hoare said.

The free CPtoys™ app is based on extensive research and clinical knowledge, and is designed specifically for therapists and families, doing the matching for them.

“Therapists and parents simply enter a few key variables and CPtoys™ provides an individually tailored list of toys to achieve a child’s individual goals,” Dr Hoare said.

Best outcomes

Dr Hoare was driven to create the app because he wanted to be providing the best therapy that he could.

“When I started (as an OT) there was no evidence or guidance about what was best practice. I set out to give kids the best therapy – therapy that was evidence based and well resourced”, Dr Hoare said.

“In order to get the best outcomes it’s critical that families do therapy at home. We used to write long lists of activities for them, and that wasn’t aligned with best practice. We can’t expect families to know exactly what to do without having good structures in place.”

The app is designed as an adjunct to therapy programs, particularly for parents to work hand in hand with therapists. It is aligned with motor learning theory, the theory that underpins all evidence based intervention.

Plans to grow

Currently, the CPtoys™ app is free in Australia with a small fee for overseas downloads to cover running costs. It is available on Apple iOS, with a web-based version planned.

So far, the feedback Dr Hoare has collected is very positive. There has been over 1700 downloads. Parents say that the app is amazing and very useful. The next step, however, is much more difficult.

“How parents find these toys is a huge issue for them. There isn’t one supplier who has all the toys, and many of them aren’t made any more”, Dr Hoare said.

“We encourage parents to go to charity shops and local council toy libraries, as lots of toys aren’t specific to CP. But it’s a difficulty to overcome.”

“My dream is to develop a CP toy swap, linked with the app, where families can swap toys when they’re finished with them”, he said.

Funding is a big issue. Dr Hoare has launched a crowdfunding site in order to create a web-based platform, and also develop the toy swap functionality. He is also looking for corporate investment and grants.

Crowdfunding campaign

Dr Hoare has just launched a new crowdfunding campaign to make CPtoys™ even better, more accessible, easier to use and most importantly, integrate a new global online toy swap system.

CPtoySwap will bring families together to securely share, donate or swap toys between themselves to make their child’s therapy more fun and more effective. They want to continue to improve the lives of children with CP and your support will make this happen. USD 50 for a 2 year membership and USD 1,000 for company name/logo on the CPtoys™ website.

Find out more at: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cerebral-palsy-toy-swap-cptoyswap#/