Thursday, May 7, 2009

Piloting Our Own Wii Therapy to Support OT in the Schools

Wii-abilitation or Wii-therapy is becoming more and more popular. I can tell by the increase in posts, articles and sites about it online. As I shared not too long ago, we were given a Wii, leftover from a program that had been closed. The Wii had some parts missing and the Wii Sports CD scratched beyond use. I got a call from a director asking me if we could use it for assistive technology somehow.
I went through the storage tub and sorted through broken remotes and odds and ends (there had been 2 Wiis at one time) and got enough working pieces to make up one good set. I bought an Outdoor Adventure mat and game, a Wii Fit board and Wii Play. I went online and printed off a good Wii Fit tutorial that lists all the activities and put together overviews from resources online for the Outdoor Adventure and the Wii Play.
We had a "launch" at a monthly OT/PT meeting last week and I gave the specialists an arsenal of articles supporting the use of the Wii in schools, veterans hospitals, care facilities, etc. I began to get requests from therapists to come out to some schools and help them get started.

A Time for Assessment
One of the OT's has set up two days, one at a middle school and one at a high school where I will set up the Wii in a closed setting. Throughout the day, we will bring in various students and based on their motor level and ability, try some games out and decide what activities will support the unique needs of that student. Will it be eye-hand coordination, balance, fine motor, speeding up reflex action, or just getting a student out of a chair, onto a mat and letting them slide down the water slide steering with their hands on the mat?
I drafted up a rough data sheet for starters that has the student information on the top as well as motor ability and motor goals, and then lists all the games with space for notes. We can fill out a form for a student, check all the games that apply to the goal and get a baseline started.
If we can pilot a program in a couple of schools and get some data that shows this is helping students, we can use that to start more Wii's in more schools under the direction of the OT/PT's.
Wii and Communication?
I have an interesting case developing for a non-verbal student where we are going to incorporate some augmentative communication with the Wii Sports to allow this student to play against a classmate and use the Communication Overlays to choose games, make comments, take turns, build a Mii (I have made boards with all the head, eyes, nose, hair, etc. parts ready to use) and say "Good game!" A great Mii site to visit for some ideas for your boards is a Mii Creator site.
Some students need a motivator to use alternate forms of communication. We are trailing a Dynavox with a student that is doing terrific things because we are having him build sandwiches, make pizza and build and shoot a model rocket (this Friday!). He happens to be in the middle school where we are bringing the Wii, so I will build some pages for using the Wii and incorporate the Dynavox V into it.
Blending tools and supports is getting to be so much fun and I find it allows some of those unique needs kids have to be met in a way that just can't happen with a one-size-fits-all philosophy.

All the best to you!
Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!


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