Simon Reeve reveals the Children in Need special of The Big Life Fix is essential viewing…

When The Big Life Fix first aired on BBC2 last year it introduced people with specific living challenges, from Parkinson’s to Cystic Fibrosis, to inspirational problem-solving inventors. The results were life-altering inventions that helped change lives!

This week, presenter Simon Reeve returns with a team of devoted brainboxes who use their particular set of skills to help three extraordinary children, Josh, Ayala and Aman in The Big Life Fix: Children in Need Special…

Simon tells us more…

The remarkable BLF team: Haiyan Zhang, Ross Atkin, Ruby Steel, Yusuf Muhammad, Jude Pullen, Akram, Ryan White and Zoe Laughlin

The first series was a great success. What happened next?

“We’ve had some big successes from the first series. The watch device designed to help with Parkinson’s in now undergoing clinical trials at UCL and is on show at the Smithsonian Design Museum in New York and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. The Cystic Fibrosis project has been picked up by Great Ormond Street and has received a grant of a quarter of a million pounds to work on discoveries related to the device. They’re profound and important discoveries and an incredible thing to be a part of.”

Why is the Children in Need episode extra special?

“It’s really special because it features three wonderful children in very different but very difficult situations, so the stakes are much higher. Josh, eight, has a rare condition called Norrie Disease and was born completely blind. Ayala, eight, suffers from Cerebral Palsy and has severely restricted movement, and Aman, 10, has brain damage and memory issues since being involved in a horrible road accident. You can’t meet these lovely children and not want to be involved in anything that makes their lives better.”

Josh with Simon and Ruby Steel

What challenges are the team helping Josh with?

“Josh wants to play with his friends at his mainstream school but because he’s blind he can’t navigate the huge challenges of the playground. Designers Ruby and Jude spent months thinking about how to help Josh and have come up with an idea we’re calling The Yellow Brick Road that involves tactile guidance tiles!”

Ayala with Nicole, Ross Atkin and Simon

How has Ayala’s life changed?

“Ayala is the most restricted of the three children and is in a wheelchair she moves by tapping a button by her head. Our brilliant boffin Ross wanted to create a way for Ayala to play with her able-bodied twin sister Caira on an equal playing field. He achieves this by using robots! Now Ayala and Caira can play and even draw together using a drawing machine. There’s an incredible moment where their inspiring mum, Nicole, stands back and watches the two girls play together for the first time in their lives without her having to be involved. It’s powerful.”

Aman with Haiyan Zhang and Simon Reeve

How is Aman helped?

“Aman struggles with episodic memory, as the experts call it, which means she can’t follow instructions in school and forgets simple but incredibly important memories from her life. It’s really painful for her family. So Big Life Fix genius Haiyan came up with a collection of tools called the Study Spark and Photo Spark that can help Aman in school now, but also in college in the future. It also helps her remember key family events and days out – all the fundamental things we rely on to build our personality.”

Is there a chance these inventions can help others?

“Hopefully they will help thousands or even tens of thousands of other people as well. I was amazed there isn’t more help for blind children. Or more games for families that have an able-bodied and disabled child. It’s astonishing that it takes a telly show to investigate this and come up with solutions, but it’s good that it does.”

It begs the question – why hasn’t it been thought of before?

“There are a couple of examples in this one-off special where you do think – why hasn’t anyone done this before? I think it’s because these children have very specific conditions and often need bespoke, specific solutions to their problem. As a society we just don’t provide them with enough, quite frankly. Hopefully the Big Life Fix can make people realise this. We live in an amazing time where everyone has technology in their pockets, but there are still discoveries to be made.”

What does working on Big Life Fix mean to you?

“It’s an incredibly powerful experience. I had to hold it together more than once! I’ve had some of my most moving experiences working on these projects. They don’t need me as a presenter so it’s a great honour to be involved in some small way. When we apply great minds to helping people in extremely difficult situations extraordinary things result! The Big Fix Team handles everything brilliantly with their huge minds and their huge hearts.”

The Big Life Fix: Children in Need Special airs on BBC2 at 9pm, Wednesday 8th November