Video Games as Therapy: How Gaming Helps Kids with Cerebral Palsy Exercise

Back when the first Pac-Man arcade machine became popular, it’s doubtful that developers ever thought video games would turn into a therapeutic tool. But here we are in the year 2016, and researchers are crafting video games that are doing just that. A group of Drexel University professors have formed a company called enAble games and they believe it will transform and augment current cerebral palsy therapy.

Challenges for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Video games get an all-around bad rap when it comes to childhood exercise. Parents always seem to have to regulate the time spent in front of a screen, or else children won’t get the recommended level of physical activity they need for proper development.

Working in the right amount of daily activity is even more challenging with children who have cerebral palsy. They face unique mobility challenges, depending on the severity of their diagnosis. It is important that activities are created to help those with cerebral palsy stay healthy and develop their functional motor skills.

Microsoft Kinect

The basis for the games created by enAble is Microsoft Kinect technology, where motion sensors take the place of traditional gaming controllers. The games are specifically designed to help kids with cerebral palsy work on upper body muscles, aerobic endurance and cognitive comprehension.

enAble’s first game, called “Kollect,” involves the gamer standing in front of a screen where different geometric shapes are floating. They use their hands to gather all the objects without hitting the mines. It’s been described as a combination of “Fruit Ninja” and “Minesweeper.”

Customized for Each Player

The best part of enAble’s strategy is that they’re making their games customizable for each individual. They are also all internet-based. The therapist has the ability to adjust the difficult level and change the size and number of shapes. They can make it harder throughout the week,  because all they have to do is log into the program and make adjustments, even if therapy isn’t in session.

Since every child has a different level of ability, letting each therapist tailor “Kollect” to make it interesting to play without having it pose too much of a challenge can help children in other ways as well. The professors behind the effort know that logging a new high score can boost a child’s self-confidence – another latent benefit their therapeutic games provide.

No, the creators of some of the earliest video games probably had no idea how far their creations would go, but it’s more than likely they would heartily approve.