Gaming and Disability

Game Therapy Helps Children with Sensory Problems

A recent study by a Taiwanese research team found that game-based therapy helps children with sensory integration dysfunction (SID) improve their body-kinesthetic skills across the board.

SID is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s physical capabilities and is increasingly being diagnosed in children. With impaired physical abilities, children with SID usually have difficulties with play, productivity or in-school motivation. Therapy has been available for children with SID, also known as sensory processing disorder, but it does not always prove accessible, frequent or engaging enough to be effective.

The research team, consisting of Tsung-Yen Chuang and Ming-Shiou Kuo from the National University of Tainan in Taiwan, had five participants play Wii Sports with a Wii Balance Board over three months. The team found that the children improved their balance and lower body sensory integration, performing tasks like hopping in circles and doing jumping jacks. Also, Wii Sports kept the attention of the participants throughout the three months of the study, which pleased the children and their parents.

The team initially started with six subjects, but one dropped out because the parents did not have enough time to participate.

The researchers stated that with increased physical ability, the children in the study will be more motivated and capable during in-school learning.

The study also found that using Wii for SID therapy was not only more convenient for families, but it also provided better results than traditional SID therapy. The game-based platform kept the children engaged, and the Wii’s built-in motion sensing made tracking progress easy.

The study and its results were published in a special edition of the Journal of Education Technology & Society, published by the International Forum of Educational Technology & Society.

The authors stated that their future work would include other devices, such as the Microsoft Kinect system, which doesn’t require any wearable or hand-held controllers which might bother sensitive SID children. They also said they would try to extend the therapy environment beyond digital console games and TV screens and more into the “real world.”

About the Author

Richard Chang is associate editor of THE Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].