Ryerson researcher Dr. Jason Nolan is breaking down barriers for children with special needs. He has recently been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Stars in Global Health program through Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Government of Canada, to fund his pilot project entitled “Adaptive Design International.” His project focuses on the creation of customized adaptations for children with special needs.
Dr. Nolan is Assistant Professor at the School of Early Childhood Studies and Director of the Experiential Design and Gaming Environments (EDGE) Lab. The EDGE lab is home to the Adaptive Design Studio, where Dr. Nolan and his colleagues work directly with children with special needs to create custom adaptable designs, working towards a goal of improving their well-being. Dr. Nolan uses accessible materials such as cardboard to create objects such as rockers that encourage self-stimulatory behaviour in autistic children.
The first step of the project is to set up a teaching and learning collaboration with partners to co-develop a training program and establish an adaptive design lab in Bolivia. Then Dr. Nolan will develop an online knowledge mobilization network linked to these international community partners.
Grand Challenge Canada’s Stars in Global Health program supports scientific/technical, social, and business innovation. Successful projects seek to create affordable health solutions that can be assimilated into cultural practices worldwide, with the capacity to affect positive change in low-to-middle-income countries.
“This collaboration will build on our shared strengths to form a solid foundation from which to share our social innovation with our neighbours and all around the world,” says Dr. Nolan. The long term goal of the project is to scale-up through additional industry and public partnerships, eventually becoming a template used in emerging communities worldwide.
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Dr Victoria Henshaw, who was our first international research fellow, and a great inspiration and influence on our work. Dr Henshaw is not only valued for her pioneering and original scholarly work but for her warmth and the generosity of spirit she brought to her mentorship and guidance of other researchers, including our own, while creating a new field – out of thin air. While there has been much scholarship on the ‘culture’ of the senses, Dr Henshaw’s work drew attention to the practical, ‘everyday’ and ‘lived’ realities of smell as dimension of the built and ambient environment that has been largely neglected by more aesthetic, scientific and consumer-oriented work on the senses. Most directly, it was through Dr Henshaw’s experiential and ‘nose-to-the-ground’ ‘smellwalks’ that her work was truly brought ‘to life’ and given meaning by the people, places and smells that inspired it.
Last January, we were privileged to host a visit from Dr Henshaw, who spoke to Ryerson’s Faculty of Design students about her work on urban smellscapes and dropped by the lab to talk with our researchers about the social and pedagogical dimensions of smellwalks. Earlier that month, lab director Dr Jason Nolan and RA Melanie McBride had participated in a panel presentation assembled by Dr Henshaw on the pedagogical and socio-cultural dimensions of ‘Designing with Smell’ for the Design Principles & Practices Conference in Vancouver.
Dr Henshaw sharing scents with EDGELab RA Alana Butler.
Building on Dr Henshaw’s work, RA McBride and Dr Nolan are contributing a chapter about DIY curriculum and pedagogy for olfactory learning for Dr Henshaw’s final book project, which is a collection of essays focused on designing with smell. In the spring of 2015, we will be organizing a smellwalk in memory of Dr. Henshaw (further details forthcoming later this winter).
Warmly, we remember Dr Henshaw’s exuberant presence and the sincerity, integrity, inclusiveness and inspiration that guided her work and interactions. Above all, we can best celebrate her life and legacy through the direct experience of sensing the wisdom of the world that is right beneath our noses.
Urban Smellscapes (Routledge, 2013)
A full length work based on Dr Henshaw’s doctoral and subsequent research on the role of smell in urban design.
Smell and the City: Urban Smell Enthusiasts
A collaborative blog that was overseen by Dr Henshaw.
The woman kicking up a stink about urban life: ‘Cities are losing their smell’
“From chocolate shops to noodle bars, from Japanese ‘sites of good fragrance’ to a hint of purest Glasgow, one woman is on a mission to reopen our nostrils to the smells of the city” – Article about Dr Henshaw’s work from the Guardian.
Don’t Turn Up Your Nose at the City in Summer
“Summer in New York, Season of Smell”
A feature article by Victoria Henshaw in the New York Times.
Obituary: Victoria Henshaw
Dr Henshaw’s life and work are described in her obituary in the The Guardian:
“A town centre manager turned urban academic, [Henshaw] became fascinated by this element of the environment that she thought had been crucially overlooked by architects and planners alike. Her doctoral research involved undertaking “smellwalks” with a range of built environment professionals, including urban designers and planners, architects and engineers, in order to open their noses to the aromas of the city”
Rubina, an ECS graduate student and past EDGE Lab RA is featured on the FCS web site as a social change leader.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation / Fondation canadienne pour l’innovation published this video about some of the projects going on in the lab last winter.
Jason Nolan, director of Ryerson University’s EDGE Lab in Toronto, designs and builds objects out of cardboard that allow kids with special needs to play freely and independently. Nolan showcased his work as CFI’s guest at the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s “Cool Science Saturday” event in Ottawa on February 15.
Photos courtesy of Jason Nolan and The Adaptive Design Association of New York
For more on this story, visit our blog:
The EDGE Lab is very proud to welcome Dr Victoria Henshaw who is joining us as an international research fellow, focusing on projects involving multi-sensory environments, design and inclusion. We recently had the privilege to host a visit from Dr Henshaw in Toronto who spoke with Ryerson’s Faculty of Design students about her work on urban smellscapes, which is focused on a ‘human-centred’ approach to the sensory dimensions of urban design and city centre management. As part of her urban design practice, Dr Henshaw described her practices with guided ‘smellwalks’ in towns and cities around the world. While it was too cold to enjoy a smell walk during the recent cold snap, we plan to invite her back in warmer times.
Among the unique highlights of Dr Henshaw’s visit was having the opportunity to smell some of her wonderful collected smells, including some rare Arabian Oud Oil and scents of Paris:
You can learn more about her urban smellscapes at her blog, Smell and the City. Dr Henshaw is a lecturer in the department of Town and Regional planning at the University of Sheffield.
Prior to Dr Henshaw’s visit, EDGE lab director Dr Jason Nolan and doctoral researcher Melanie McBride presented a talk as part of Dr Victoria Henshaw’s ‘Designing with smell’ colloquium at the Design Principles and Practices conference in Vancouver. Nolan and McBride’s talk advanced ‘neurodiversity’ as a standpoint from which to address inclusive sensory design principles and practices in relation to different ways of sensing that challenge, but also extend, the normative ‘sensory order.’ This talk furthers Nolan and McBride’s ongoing research into the conceptualization and design of technologically mediated multi-sensory environments and McBride’s doctoral research on smell as a neglected modality of digital communication and culture.
Lab researchers Jason Nolan and Donna Koller are members of IMPAKT, and wish to invite members of the Ryerson community to this important talk: Bullying Prevention for Children with Differences and Disabilities by Dr. Debra Pepler
December 9, 2013, 3:30 – 5:00pm Main Auditorium – Hollywood Theatre 1rst Floor Black Wing, Room 1249 The Hospital for Sick Children
Topic: Children with differences and disabilities are bullied at a higher rate than their typically developing peers. Natural processes within children’s groups move these children to the margins, where they are at increased risk for victimization. Children with differences and disabilities want and need healthy peer relationships as much as any other child. The healthy development of all children depends on healthy relationships. It is our role as adults involved in the lives of children to redirect natural peer processes to ensure that children with differences and disabilities are fully included in positive peer relationships. We will explore critical strategies for promoting healthy relationships and healthy development for children and youth including: adults’ self awareness, building rapport with children and youth, scaffolding or coaching, social architecture, and systems change.
Dr. Debra Pepler is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University and a Senior Adjunct Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her research focuses on aggression and victimization among children and adolescents, as well as children in families at risk. Together with Dr. Wendy Craig, Dr. Pepler leads a federally funded national network, PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network), that is Canada’s Authority on Research and Resources for Bullying Prevention and a National Centre of Excellence Knowledge Mobilization Network. PREVNet’s mission is to promote safe and healthy relationships and prevent bullying for children and youth.
More info at: IMPAKT Talk -DebraPeplerDec9-2013
Rubina Quadri is helping children learn the art of communication. The Early Childhood Studies (ECS) ’12 graduate received a $27,000 Ryerson Social Enterprise Fellowship Federal Development Grant to develop a prototype of Talking Buttons, a reprogrammable touchpad to help autistic children communicate. Like fellow ECS graduate Sherene Ng, Quadri’s internship and work as a lab technician and research assistant in the EDGE Lab got her acquainted with adaptive design. Quadri started to learn about Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices and how to enhance its capabilities. AAC are communication methods to help support or replace speech and writing for those with impairments. Read more at: “Talking Buttons helps kids vocalize needs”
EDGElab HQP Rubina Quadri and Sherene Ng featured on the GRAND website
Quadri and Ng were recently awarded a Social Venture Commercialization Fellowship for $30,000 from FedDevOntario and Ryerson to develop an original EDGElab property. The Talking Touchpad, which was initially conceptualized and developed by EDGE lab director Jason Nolan, is a wearable, customizable Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device for children ages four to six who have speech disabilities (difficulty speaking or being understood). The Talking Touchpad allows children to communicate to others in a spontaneous, independent way. According to the The Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists, speech impairments in school-aged children are frequently misdiagnosed as learning disabilities or behavioural problems. The Talking Touchpad can facilitate self-expression and help to diminish misunderstandings.