Friday, October 23, 2009

In the News: Kids Use Nintendo Wii to Learn Skills - Video

Yesterday KEPR TV and KVEW TV came and taped for a news clip. The students had fun showing what they could do. Although a lot ended up on the cutting floor, there are some interesting pieces. It gives you a rough idea of what we are doing. As promised, here is the link to the KEPR article and segment. They have the link to the video there as well:

All the best,


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wii Therapy: Findings in Motor Integration/planning and Sensory Systems

Can observing children using theWii help us learn more about their weaknesses and develop strategies to use the Wii to augment traditional therapy and educational practice?

The Wii mat for Outdoor Challenge is pictured above, along with the pipleslider game the students play when sitting on the mat. By leaning left or right and patting their hands, the can steer themselves down the slide.

My question at the top is quite a mouthful! We are struggling to get valid results from observing students using the Wii and find ways to use it to support their goals. They love to play the Wii and it can be a real motivating factor. Whether we are looking at social interaction and systems that students work in with autism, or orthopedic issues in motor integration and planning, our efforts are showing some positive results as we have used the Wii in several situations this fall.

I have been working with a PT/OT and a early childhood specialist in an early childhood program. We have been bringing students in from the morning and afternoon sessions to "play". They have more speech and social goals than orthopedic ones. We have used the Outdoor Challenge game mat to play games like Mole Stomper, Pipe Slider and Timber Trail. All of these involve skills like running in place, foot/eye coordination, left/right orientation, balance, anticipation and developing problem solving systems, etc.

It has been enlightening to see how these young children develop better skills through trial and error, but we have also been able to pinpoint certain deficiencies in age-appropriate developmental skills within the motor planning, fine motor and right/left skills. We have also noticed that the students that have speech issues do not necessarily have motor planning issues as well when using the Wii, but most everyone has some area of deficiency when using the Wii that we can monitor and work on skill strengthening.
We have 2 TV stations coming out to the classroom tomorrow to tape the students and our therapists and myself on the pilot program. If we get a video clip of the piece to share online, I will link to it.

Since we have developed this program, we have been able to use it for some high school age students with autism as well. The thing we are noticing with them is that when they have to do something out of their sensory system - something that cause them to have to adjust and "tweek" their receptive sense, there can be some learning and higher tolerance as an outcome. For example, if we ask a student to take off their shoes and stand on the Wii Fit Board to play a balance game, they might refuse or have a hard time dealing with doing something in their sock feet. The lure of the game and the motivational factor there might be the ticket to get them to comply and give it a try. When this happens, the door can open to new sensations and willingness to try. We have had similar instances with sitting on a mat on the floor, being in sock feet on the mat and putting the strap on the Wii remote around a wrist.

We have just purchased the components for a second system that will go into a student autism group in a high school to work on social and sensory developmental goals. We also have a fourth grade deaf boy who is in a wheelchair and will be using the Wii therapy to do some eye/hand coordination and integration of a speech device with game symbols and basic communication to play with the teacher and a peer.

This has been an interesting journey. I have actually been so busy that I have had to focus on other directions and let this go. In spite of my negligence at times, the teachers and specialists have owned the program and run with it. They have been sharing results and ideas, and proposing new ways to apply the games to student needs. It is taking on a life of its' own!

We have a goal to develop improved data collection forms and develop some tutorials and helps for specialists and teachers to integrate games. We are a long way from that yet - but things are definitely taking shape.
More to come as things develop.

Note: The Wii is not used for official diagnosis, evaluation or screening. It is only used as another tool to see what students can and cannot do and give them a fun and motivating way to develop and achieve goals - approaching them from a different angle.
All the best,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is it a Mystery? Self-accommodation Needs Information and Self-Awareness

Assistive technology has been a unfamiliar concept for many living in my rural Eastern Oregon region, but in the past 5 years I have been working on building a program, and this fall we have begun to see the efforts pay off. I have been literally overwhelmed with new requests for evaluations, observations, new students, personal development trainings, involvement in accessible instructional materials directions state-wide (not to mention spending every waking minute not at work, spent underneath our home built in 1897, excavating and leveling and putting in new beams - and shutting 'er up before the snow flies - I live high in the mountains).
I am FINALLY at a place where I can sit by the crackling fire in the wood stove this evening, after my son practiced his fiddle tunes and his spelling words, to play some cards and then write on my blog - a dear friend I have missed but have been much too preoccupied this past few months.
I haven't meant to neglect my AT writing but there has been too much going on in life lately to chronicle. I think I have been on overload. It is like walking through a buffet line and not knowing what to try first. There have been many students and many ideas and new relationships built.

I wanted to share about a high school girl I drove to see way out in the boondocks in a small community who has central auditory processing issues and has low grades as an eighth grader. I was asked to come and observe and do an evaluation based on her needing support to write and get her ideas down. I observed her in a language arts class, write an essay on the computer. She could write on the fly and use the spell checker and word prediction well. She could do the mechanics, but the teacher spent a lot of time with her trying to get her to flesh out the main ideas and words that emphasized the major points. She wasn't quite getting that.

I visited with her afterward and explained that I was there to help her with some ways to write and organize her thoughts. I asked her:
"The papers in your file say that you have a central auditory processing disorder. Do you know what that is?" I asked.
She shook her head "No".
"It's like this," I said, "Do you ever feel like your brain is like a radio and you hear what people tell you but you can't tune in the station clear enough so later you can't remember what you were supposed to do?"

Her eyes got big and she nodded, "yes".

I started to share ideas, "What if we were to work on finding some tools, maybe a voice recorder to help you remember. You can have teachers say directions, instructions - maybe even record a class where they tell everyone a lot of important information for a test. You can use this to help you get it again."

I shared how we could set up a special binder with pockets to hold cards that tell her what the big picture ideas are in a class or steps to a project. We are going to have the staff that work with her in for a meeting and talk about low and mid tech and what might best support her.

I think the "take home" for me was that I was talking to an eighth grader who had never been told what her learning disorder was or how to accommodate for it.
In order to be successful, students with disabilities need to know what they have going on and what tools best will give them the life skills they need to succeed independently in life.
Let's take the mystery out of the issues our students face. Let's help them understand how things can be different and they can begin to have power over what they can read study and write. Empowerment and independence is what it is all about!

All the best,