Life Saving Inclusion: New Kit Revolutionizes CPR AED Certification

Life Saving Inclusion: New Kit Revolutionizes CPR AED Certification

The quick use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) can save lives.

Just ask Perla Rodriquez, who saved the life of a 2-year-old who fell into a lake, by quickly administering CPR. Ms. Rodriguez is a graduate of Project SEARCH , which focuses on helping and training young people with a range of different learning needs to find employment. 

For individuals with cognitive challenges, learning and being certified to use an AED and the techniques of CPR can be difficult with traditional methods.   In addition, many good jobs have CPR certification as a requirement.   That’s why Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with Project SEARCH created CPR and AED Basics.   

As Erin Riehle, RN, MSN, director of Disability Services, founder of Project SEARCH, and co-inventor of Attainment’s AED toolkit explained,  “this was a hurdle our members kept encountering.  It’s just not that easy for everyone to achieve, not because they can’t perform CPR, but rather because the one-size-fits-all instruction and test requirements are a challenge for a number of people.”.  

Performing CPR is a skill that almost anyone can learn.  But most CPR courses are not designed for people with different learning needs. To earn CPR certification, a student must sit through hours of classroom instruction, understand written concepts, demonstrate chest compressions and take a test.  

For those with special learning needs or for whom reading is difficult, passing this type of course can seem overwhelming. 

The spark that ignited the project came from Angela Jackson, R.R.T., retired Cincinnati Children’s employee and a chance encounter with a genuine hero.  “I met Perla Rodriquez… a Project SEARCH (PS) graduate from Georgia. She took an ‘adapted’ CPR course in her PS program to save the life of a 2-year-old.”


How many more people like Perla could also save a life?  

Jackson collaborated with Riehle and other Project SEARCH staff (Tina Martin, M.Ed., and Maryellen Daston, PhD) to create the competitive board game with mannequins, game pieces and sorting cards that is a key component of the kit. This game helped users learn and practice CPR skills in preparation for certification in a fun, low-pressure way. 

The Project SEARCH team brought their concept to Cincinnati Children’s Innovation Ventures, which helps employees develop ideas that have commercial potential.  The goal -- license them to companies that can take them to market to benefit children and adults.  

(Read more about the innovation process in this Cincinnati Children’s Inspire Magazine article at CPR kit - Inspire, June 2021.) 

With inclusivity in mind, the team tested the design with many end users. Refinements to the final design included photos and graphics representing many races and abilities and cards are in large print for those with visual impairments.   “What I like about it,” Riehle says, “is that the kit makes CPR concepts accessible to everyone.” 

Attainment Company, an educational product company dedicated to helping people with disabilities succeed in school, work and life, recognized the potential of this innovative game.  

“When we received the prototype, Attainment wanted to find a way to keep costs down and get the kit into as many hands as possible,” says Autumn Garza, president and CEO of Attainment. “To do so, we had the idea to put the AED device in an app format. However, our software team insisted that the entire toolkit become digitized to improve accessibility.”  

The app now includes all aspects of the kit: 

  • AED,
  • Perla Saves the Day,
  • Check,
  • Call,
  • Care,
  • Life Saving Skills books,
  • posters,
  • sorting cards,
  • game cards and
  • an interactive board game.  

The kit is distributed in Canada by Bridges as CPR + AED Basics. 

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  • Bogdan Pospielovsky
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