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,

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