Friday, July 11, 2008

Pediatric centers in UK using Wii for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy

In Newcastle, England, a professor at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience has opened a research study in using video games, including the Wii, as a rehab tool for children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Hemiplegia affects one side of the body, and children diagnosed with this disability often neglect the disabled arm and leg. The study is using Wii controllers and laptops with specially designed games to encourage children to use their disabled arm. These adapted games have a lower level of complexity and a lower speed than those commercially available; the study has tested two games and a third will be added.

The principal researcher, Professor Janet Eyre, has noted improvements in the children's use of the less frequently used limb as well as improvements in coordination and social interaction:

"What has been striking to us, and the parents and children, is that by playing the games the children are using their [disabled] arm more in everyday life. We're trying to give them an incentive so that they will use it a lot."

She also notes the social value of using games, which are an integral part of childhood, to de-stigmatize therapy for children and families:
"Children sometimes feel stigmatised by therapy but everyone plays games, and they can play them with their parents or their brothers and sisters."
Therapy may hold a stigma even for adults; using the Wii and other video game / interactive tools may be of use even with older patients who resist therapy or who are unlikely to adhere to recommended courses of therapeutic treatment.

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