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Dad's desperation inspires invention of new toy to help special-needs daughter

Feb 2018 WCVB Boston and People.com

Jacob and Beth Lacourse were over the moon when they welcomed their daughter Rebecca in 2016. But the Massachusetts, couple wasn’t prepared for the tragic news to follow. Rebecca, now 2 years old, was born deaf. The family did their best to learn sign language and adjust their lives to meet their daughter’s needs. But just as the family reached a sense of normalcy, the Lacourses learned that Rebecca has Usher Syndrome, a rare disease that not only affects hearing, but also balance and vision. Jacob said “It was devastating. You go through a period of mourning and you feel like a piece of your daughter has died. We both were devastated for a few days, but over time it was like, ‘Hey, this is who she is. We’re gonna make it work.’ I like to adapt the world to her needs.” "I can't even explain how devastated I felt," says Beth "It's the type where the symptoms happen the fastest.” Rebecca could be blind too by the time she's a teenager. She already has trouble seeing at night and is starting to lose her peripheral vision. "We still feel like we have to get her to see different things and different places before we run out of time," Beth says. Right now, there is no cure for Usher Syndrome, so Jake and Beth focus on making their daughter's life better. "We see the challenges that she faces every day in her own environment," Jake says. "And those are all problems that I see solutions for."

Becdot

 

Jake invented the BecDot for her

Rebecca Lacourse sits at the kitchen table and smiles. Wearing her cochlear implant so she can hear, the toddler is ready to make some noise with the toy in front of her. "Are you ready to play?" asks Jake. She grabs a small rubber duck and places it on the toy's lit square. It flashes. Plastic dots rise up through the toy's tiles. "Quack quack quack," the toy announces. Rebecca gasps with glee. "Good job," Jake says. He's smiling now, too.

Rebecca Lacourse"The whole idea is to get her to recognise that the dots represent something," Jake explains as his daughter replaces the duck with a goat. "We're not trying to teach her how to spell the word GOAT right now or anything. Just give her that idea. She loves playing with it. She’ll put the toy on it and just light up! She gets really excited because the toy makes noise. If you put a cow on it, it ‘moos’ and she just loves it. When she puts a toy on it, the little dots pop up and it’s to get her to identify what the toy is.”

It's a simple concept with a serious goal. The BecDot offers an early introduction to Braille, which helps the visually impaired read words using raised dots. The BecDot is still in the development stage. "I think that's our way of dealing with it," he says. "Keeping busy and trying to help other people along the way.” The toy works with an app that allows parents to program words to the device. And Jacob says he hopes to make the toy available for visually impaired children everywhere at an affordable price. He recently took the BecDot to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where it won the Not Impossible Limitless Award.

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