MECHANICAL BROOM HANDLE
Our team’s focus is on increasing the normality and independence of our target group’s day-to-day life by increasing the ease of an everyday task. The common task we have focused our attention towards is sweeping. Our team is designing an apparatus to assist individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) from South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC) of Toronto to functionally use a broom. Motor coordination deficits are a basic aspect of ASDs (Fournier et al., 2010) and can make certain tasks more frustrating and challenging. The prevalence and severity of these deficits vary across the spectrum and among individuals. Therefore, we needed to design an apparatus which could be highly adaptable to a variety of individuals’ physical needs.
Our observations at SAAAC informed us that our clients with ASDs had the strength and range to use a broom, however, they were limited in their coordination and precision. The physical manifestation of this appeared to be dexterous; not enough force was applied by their hand and fingers, and a poor grip inhibited proper broom orientation with the ground. Our team hypothesized that if we could fix the broom to the user we could greatly reduce the amount of precision and coordination required to use a broom.
Our assistive device is very simple, it consists of a C-clamp and bar which can be secured to the handle of any broom or mop of any height. The bar component sticks out perpendicular to the broom handle. This bar is then slid into a specially modified glove/wrist brace, worn by the users. The broom is effectively fixed to the user’s hand, but without requiring them to grip it with their fingers. They do not need to do anything to hold the broom when the system is worn. Once the broom is secured they only need to move their wrist and arms to sweep. They can apply a small force with their other hand to properly orient the broom, or it can be locked in place dependent on the user’s needs. We are hoping that less reliance on fine motor skills will increase the ease at which our clients are able to sweep using a conventional broom.