A University graduate and mum today told how her new Sunderland business venture was inspired by her autistic son.
A fantastic story about love and wanting to change the world for the better, here’s Vijayalakshmi’s story and all the key details you need to know about TeenyWeeny VR…
Using university knowledge for positive change…
Vijayalakshmi Subramani – VJ to her friends – saw how much six-year-old James struggled during the past 12 months with having to stay indoors during lockdown.
To help him and other parents, she decided to use her knowledge of Virtual Reality technology to create a VR-based entertainment platform for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
VJ, who launched her own business Thendral International Ltd after graduating with an MSc in Environment, Health & Safety from the University of Sunderland last year, said:
“Before lockdown, we regularly took James to the park and go for long drives, so he has found being inside all the time very stressful.
“He started saying words like “car”, “beach” and even his friends’ names during his sleep.
“James has multiple allergies, including eczema and asthma, so it is too much of a risk to take him outside during a pandemic.
Due to his autistic nature, he doesn’t understand what we say, and he finds it hard to communicate and ends up self-harming and scratching himself.
“When I saw James struggling to cope, I was desperate to find a solution for his problems, so we tried VR headsets with travel and entertainment videos, and he really enjoyed the immersive experience.
“Even though we were stressed to the core, my knowledge, life experience and education came together and helped me find the best solution for James.
“We also wanted to help other struggling parents and that is when this whole idea of solving SEND children’s problems through TeenyWeeny VR evolved.”
Supporting children with a calming and immersive experience…
TeenyWeeny VR helps children deal with phobias, anxiety, change and transition episodes with a calming, fully immersive and portable experience.
VJ launched a prototype of the system in April with the Harry Watts Academy, a specialist school for children with autism in Sunderland.
“We are creating high quality entertainment with our region’s best children’s entertainers, fun-based educational content and virtual tours in VR for children with special educational needs and disabilities,” VJ added.
VJ arrived in England from India in 2009, and after several years working for Sunderland City Council, she decided she wanted to spread her wings and quit her role to study a postgraduate course at the University.
During her studies VJ’s hard work and caring nature was recognised by the University when her fellow students voted her Student of the Year in 2019 for her inspirational work supporting fellow students.
Last year, VJ was one of the finalists of the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Inspiring Female Award in the SME category, and says that her postgraduate studies at the University had a huge impact on her business.
“I can clearly see the difference in myself before and after my time at the University of Sunderland in my personality, confidence and in presenting my ideas,” the 35-year-old said.
“The amount of work we did in writing assignments and research is really helping me now to write business reports, and present business pitches in front of investors.
“I believe this is the whole idea of a university education, bringing out our hidden talents as students and shaping our skills to succeed in both our personal and professional life.”