Fun times in a cool market
Gyro Plastics’ Feilding factory does some pretty serious plastics manufacturing for New Zealand’s power and electric vehicle industries.
But upstairs in a meeting room Chief Executive Trudi Duncan and Operations Manager Vanessa Kenyon are showing off new, much more colourful plastic products designed for a new market.
The company has launched a range of communication aids and sensory toys and devices designed to help anyone who needs them.
The table is full of plastic flash cards, each with a picture alongside its name for visual learners. There are also plastic tiles that fit into ‘routine boards’ to help with daily tasks by illustrating the steps. And it’s hard to put down the toys, which move under your fingers and produce a whole lot of sensations.
Trudi and Vanessa say their Sensay products are a visual learning and communication system. Many of them are manufactured at the Feilding factory using 3D printing; other products are imported because they work with the system.
Plenty of toys will appeal to early learners or those who are neurodiverse. But they are not just for children; they include communication tools that assist people who have had traumatic brain injuries, strokes or those with anxiety – anyone who has difficulty communicating. Trudi and Vanessa also see potential with Braille and for use by people learning languages.
Vanessa raised two autistic boys and used flash cards for her younger son James, who at nearly five years old wasn’t talking. She made cards and routine boards for him out of cardboard and within weeks he started to say words. She says that when he looked at a book the picture meant something, but the words had no meaning for him. “I then realised that he was really, really visual.”
Vanessa used the flash cards for several years with James until he didn’t need them anymore. “By the age of nine, he had it.”
Flash cards aren’t new. Educators and others have been using them for a long time, but Trudi and Vanessa are hoping their products will save teachers a lot of time at the printer and laminator.
Trudi, the mother of four young children, was keen to explore Vanessa’s idea. “My life experience also led to me understanding it right away.” She says she knows that children learn in very different ways. “What hit home to me is how drastically different all children’s needs are.”
She is quick to assure Gyro’s customers that this is not a departure from its core business but rather an exploration of talent within the business.
Trudi says the family company has been in business in Feilding for nearly 60 years and is well connected to the community. Gyro has supported the local Special Children’s Christmas Party for 14 years. Her father supported the event because of two grandsons with cystic fibrosis.
Trudi took over the running of the company as owner and CEO 10 years ago and continues that support.
“For us, supporting healthy lifestyles is a broader outcome. Wherever we can help and make people’s lives easier is where we are headed.”
Caption: Trudi Duncan (left) and Vanessa Kenyon show off their more colourful plastics.