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Plastic Technologies Helps Createable Learning Concepts Launch
Tracing, Cutting Tools For Special-Needs Children

Learning how to trace and cut shapes can be a challenge for many preschoolers-even more so for those with developmental and physical impairments.

Patent-pending Traceables and Cuttables from Createable Learning Concepts, LLC, Toledo, OH, now offer a colorful and easy-to-use path for success.

Traceables enable kids to trace an entire shape without having to pause to go around their wrist. Cuttables secure the paper for cutting via two matching shapes held together by magnets.

Special needs children in northern Ohio have already reaped the benefits. Feedback from students, parents and teachers has been encouraging.

Bonnie Corder, a teacher who does community outreach as part of the Toledo Public Schools' early childhood program has firsthand experience with the tools.

"Special needs kids oftentimes have problems with fine motor skills. They can easily get frustrated and cry when they are unable to complete a task. When a child looks at you and says 'I did it' with pride in their voice, you can see the impact," Corder says.

Evelyn Mylander, a teacher with East Toledo Preschool has had similar experience. She oversees a classroom of 3-, 4- and 5-year olds who function at an infant/toddler level.

"Because the tools are safe, durable and portable, the kids can explore with their hands, as well as carry or look through them. They develop a level of comfort that makes them more willing to try a fine motor activity," Mylander says.

The products are the brainchild of Liz and Randy Wharton who dreamed up the idea in their living room. Having spent more than 20 years as an occupational therapist for special needs children, Liz saw firsthand how challenging and frustrating it could be for them to master these tasks.

She brought the issue to her husband Randy's attention. He is a retired U.S. Air Force nuclear engineer, who is currently a department chair at a Toledo community college. With neither of them having any business start up experience, they were uncertain as to what path to take to commercialize their idea.

"Then in early 2008, a person from the Regional Growth Partnership gave a speech at the community college where I work. We approached them with our idea and they put us in touch with the Toledo Chamber of Commerce. In turn, they helped us write our business plan and put us in touch with another Ohio company, Plastic Technologies," explains Randy.

Plastic Technologies, Inc (PTI). has a global reputation as an engineering and design company for a variety of plastic-based materials, bottles, containers, etc. The company typically works with well-known brand-owners to design, develop, test, etc. a variety of plastic-based containers. These ultimately end up mass produced in large quantities by other manufacturers and end up in consumer's homes as packaging for beverages, food, personal care products, household chemicals, etc.

"Although most of the projects we work on are for large-volume packaging products, PTI also believes in giving back to the community. When Liz and Randy's project came to our attention, we wanted to do everything possible to help them commercialize their idea in a way that made economic sense," says Chris White, engineer, PTI.

"Randy brought us his design concept for 13 different learning tools. Each one was made from between two [Traceables] and four [Cuttables] components which made them cost-prohibitive to manufacture. We needed to figure out how to make them in one and two components, to help minimize production costs and downstream assembly. These were key aspects to keeping retail pricing affordable for schools and parents," White says.

One of the key design elements of both learning tool types is a knob(s) that acts as a positioning and stabilizing handle. In the original design, the tool base and the handle were two separate pieces.

"To help decrease manufacturing costs, we optimized the design so that the handle and base were one piece," White says.

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