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Wii therapy in Columbus: From rehabilitation to special education

Nintendo Wii game system has taken homes, hospitals and even schools by storm. The Wii was rolled out in 2006, and the benefits, shared by Lon Thornburg, appears to be far-reaching.

A hospital in Columbus, Ohio, has introduced the use of the Wii to help people undergoing therapy to rebuild their muscles following a stroke, brain damage or spinal cord trauma.

Occupational therapist Robbie Winget said "I thought it was cool that you used your body to control the movement," he told Reuters, adding that he became convinced it could help patients improve their balance, coordination, strength and endurance.

The Wii is being used with kids and adults, from ages 9 – 90. Stroke victims, military veterans, and students with special needs in schools, all seem to be benefitting from the Wii system.

Here are six examples of the benefits emerging from Wii play:

1. The Wii can divert the attention of the subject off of the pain associated with movement making it easier to do the movement while bowling, boxing, playing tennis, etc.

2. "Virtual PE" from a wheelchair is possible in special needs classrooms. Children can bowl and play baseball against other students in the classroom. One school even has a "game day" where a special needs class can play another class.

3. Teachers, specialists and assistants often hold and assist the student with the Wii remote to model movement, the swing, roll, punch, etc.

4. Better circulation of limbs is occurring.

5. Games support eye/hand coordination and students are able to "whack the ball out of the park" on the Wii when they have difficulty doing other eye/hand tasks. Maybe this will help.

6. Color and shape recognition is increasing.

Go to Wii Solutions for Special Needs for more examples of how the gaming system is helping kids with special needs.

If you have a question or a topic for Dr. Barrett to research and report on, please email Dr. Barrett.

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