For children with behavioural and learning challenges, getting ready for the day can be a struggle. Waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast and heading out the door on time is never a guarantee.
Pierre Séguin, whose son faced some of these challenges, knew all too well how difficult it could be for kids to organize their day, even with the help of their parents and caregivers. His solution?
He took some of the features of project management software he was using every day at work in the tech industry and used them to create Brili, a mobile-based daily planner that makes a game out of routine tasks. Brili is part of the Faculty of Medicine's Health Innovation Hub and the Faculty of Information's Semaphore Research Cluster. Séguin is an expert-in-residence with Semaphore.
He spoke with U of T's Dan Haves about how Brili works and the future of this software.
Where did you get the idea for Brili?
My son had various behavioral challenges when he was very young and daily routines were awful for our family. We spoke to many experts as we tried to help him. They advised us to give our son structure and consistency, and use lists, pictures and timers to help him remember steps in the routine.
I was a software product manager working with teams that used big LCD dashboard screens to show a project’s status and keep multimillion-dollar technology jobs on track. So I thought, ‘Why can’t we create something like this for kids?’ Daily routines are just little projects that happen every day, and our son needed a dashboard of his own. That realization unleashed a flurry of ideas to gamify routines.
What are some of the challenges that Brili helps children overcome?
Brili is especially helpful to kids who have trouble with executive function (EF). EF is the role our brain plays in impulse control, keeping us focused, aware of time passing, remembering what we’re supposed to be doing and other functions many people take for granted. ADHD, autism and other learning challenges directly impact EF.
Brili gives kids gentle and consistent prompts to start regular routines like getting ready for school or bedtime, and helps them stay on task with audible reminders and visual cues.
For example, parents can program Brili to give their kids reminders to do things like get dressed or brush their teeth during the morning routine before school. The app also factors in the time available to complete each item on the list. The prompts can also help parents check in with their kids to ensure they get help when they need it.
What’s next for Brili?
We’re building new features into Brili that will make it helpful in a classroom environment so kids can benefit from the program at school.
We started Brili to give every child and parent access to fun, stress-free daily routines so families can just enjoy being families. As mobile technology becomes more accessible, it’s exciting to see our goal become reality. Next, we want to help people of all ages in more contexts to manage and use their time better.