Couple’s carefully tested education products show promise for autistic and other children by April Mitchell
EDU&KATE’S is a newer learning resource company that specializes in products for children with special needs. When I learned of Victor Pereira and his company, I had to shine
a light on this company and what it is doing. As a certified teacher who taught in classrooms with special-needs students, this topic was very near and dear to my heart. I hope you support Edu&Kate’s any way you can.
April Mitchell (AM): What inspired you to start a company that focuses on educational products?
Victor Pereira (VP): Edu&Kate’s was inspired by my own and my wife’s experience with our son Pedro, now an autistic adult. When he was young, whenever we were working with therapists, they would recommend we use a technique that usually required a specific product with Pedro, but we couldn’t find that same product anywhere. During that time, we were all still learning about autism, and subsequently, they would suggest so many different activities for Pedro. Without the same products and materials the therapist had, we just couldn’t get him to work with me, and at the time, their products were incredibly expensive and impossible for parents such as myself to find. So Virgínia and I started to create new products for Pedro, new experiences, and new activities based on what we were learning while working with the therapists. Virgínia and I— especially my wife—started inventing and testing activities with Pedro, and when something didn’t work for him, he would let us know. He just wouldn’t participate in the activity, and we would go back to the drawing board and create something different.
But when we got it right, it was amazing! He would light up. He would play with it non-stop, even sometimes sneaking out of his room in the night to go back to it. That’s when we knew we had gotten it right. Together, Pedro, my wife and I invented so many different activities, always guided by the therapists. It was amazing through these interactions, we could communicate with him and vice versa. Since Pedro is non-verbal, these activities made him much more expressive and therefore helped us to understand him better.
Later, as Pedro was growing up and getting ready to leave school, we started to realize there was not going to be a place for him in the society we live in. Without the support system that is school had been for so many years, where would he go? Of course, he would live with us. But to really feel fulfilled, we all need to have a purpose, and nobody would hire Pedro given the fact that he was non-verbal and that he might at any time lose interest and not complete the job. That could be a new source of anxiety in his world and certainly was in ours—people not understanding him, judging him.
That’s when it hit us! We could put together Pedro’s love for assembling things and our experiences creating projects for him, and set up this project. Thus was born the idea of Edu&Kate’s, a process that became a project that became a company created by parents for parents so that no one would have to go through what we went through to connect with their own child. We started on our journey of creating this brand by reviewing and taking all of the materials that Pedro used and contacting therapists to ask them to work with us and to help us on this journey. We combined our experience as parents and our needs with the therapists’ knowledge and guidance to create toys and games.
We started the process slowly and carefully, giving some products to schools and clinics to get feedback for each concept to see if the project would have a future. The feedback we got was very good, and especially on the progress of children with autism.
Since those early days of test and learn, we have built that into our process. We are continuously inviting therapists to participate in our ideation and product development process, developing prototypes for them, and then going back to those same therapists and schools to test them out. We then update the products based on the feedback—and that’s how we develop the toys we have today, and how we will do it in the future.
AM: Such an inspiring story! What is your goal or hope with starting Edu&Kate’s?
VP: Our main goal is to help—to help as many parents, guardians and professionals as possible so that they can teach, educate, and interact with those in their care in a fun and inclusive way. With this approach, we will live in a world where special-needs people will be able to connect and express themselves in a manner that the ones in their lives are able to better understand them, living a life full of love and mutual comprehension.
We also want to help by creating jobs. As I have said, Pedro is an adult now, so we also understand and sympathize with adults with special needs establishing their own path as well as their own place in society.
We want them to be able to live their lives to the fullest with the same opportunities as everybody else, so one of the goals of our company is to grow large enough to establish a foundation that
will carry on that mission. The mission of helping special-needs adults by creating a space for them in this world we all share through education, activities and advocacy.
AM: How is your company different from other educational toy or game companies currently in the market? What sets Edu&Kate’s apart?
VP: We’ve been there. We aren’t inventing and creating products that we think should be good for this community; we are members of this community.
We are making the products that we used, the products that we needed, and the products that we wished we had. We know what’s it like to be one of those parents because we are parents of a special-needs child. We understand how they feel, searching and doing new activities every day, trying to connect with their child, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding—but always searching. It can be so frustrating. All our toys are developed and designed under the guidance of professionals in the field of occupational and speech therapy, combined with our own experiences, to provide the best relationship between learning, playing and creating emotional connections with children. Not just children who have special needs, but all children.
While we focus our innovation on the specialneeds population, our products are great for all kids. We want them to be able to connect with the people who love them and develop as many skills as they can to live lives full of love and joy.
AM: What can parents or teachers expect to see with your products? Are you using specific materials for the production of your products?
VP: Parents can find the themes that we looked for when teaching Pedro, and themes that we know are commonly searched for by other parents to teach any child, teenager, or adult so they can communicate clearly and connect emotionally. Themes such as fruits, clothes, transportation, animals, emotions, geometric shapes, and many others helped Pedro be so much more expressive and less anxious in knowing and understanding the world around him. And you’ll find, if you are the parent of a special-needs child, that you can use our product to have the same experience with your own child.
These toys will help you and your child work together to develop so many things … things that are commonly taken for granted and are extremely important such as emotional skills, fine motor skills, visual and tactile perception, focused attention, etc., in a way that they and even we can all have fun together. Exploring and existing in the world around us can be a source of anxiety, but by working with your child and using our products, you can help to reduce this anxiety. Personally, I believe that learning through play is the best way to do that.
AM: How can consumers purchase your new
products? In which countries are they available?
VP: Our products, for now, are only available on our website in Europe. Nevertheless, I am excited to say that we are coming soon to the United States both on our website and on Amazon this year! We will be online in the United States this spring and hope to be in your local stores by 2024.
AM: What can our readers do to help spread the word about Edu&Kate’s?
VP: If you know someone who has family members, friends, or someone you know who has special needs, you can recommend our products to them. You can even do that with therapists that you meet with and teachers who are always looking for educational material to continue their work with children and adults. Another way is through social media. It’s a snowball effect. The more people who know about the project, the more people we can help. Approximately 1 in 6 children in America has special needs, so it’s very likely that someone in your own circle of friends has a child who could benefit from our products.