autism · behavior · children · cognition · creativity · mental health · psychology · technology

Using Play and Technology for Therapy

Griffin Wajda and Juan Pablo Hourcade in Iowa City, IA, play a collaborative-storytelling app.

I truly think technology (and play) are underutilized when it comes to all kinds of therapy, partially because it’s expensive, and partially because people don’t know how to implement it. This article in the Wall Street Journal offers a great example of how people are integrating play AND technology into therapy.

Multitouch technology—which turned smartphones, iPads and other tablet computers into consumer sensations—has a new function: therapy for cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders, as well as a range of developmental disabilities. Researchers from at least three North American universities, including Iowa, are developing therapeutic applications for multitouch devices. Games developed by the Scientists’ Discovery Room Lab at Harvard University, and by University of Alberta researcher Michelle Annett, encourage children with cerebral palsy and stroke victims to stretch their range of upper arm and wrist motion.

“It’s a very motivating tool for the patients. It’s visual, the feedback is instant and it’s fun,” said Isabel Henderson, vice president of Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton, Canada, where games on a touch-screen table are part of stroke victims’ physical rehabilitation.

The new apps offer patients engaging ways to address their medical conditions over the long term, said Quentin Ranson, an occupational therapist at the Alberta hospital. They also could help reduce the time patients need to spend in expensive traditional therapy, Mr. Ranson said.

Children with cerebral palsy—a group of disorders caused by brain damage before or shortly after birth—work to improve their motor skills and coordination through repetitive exercises like wiping a cloth across a table, stringing beads on a pipe cleaner or throwing a ball back and forth. Patients recovering from stroke do much of the same, stacking cones and flipping cards to help them lift their arms against gravity.

more via the Wall Street Journal.

This is just one example of how using play and the right tools can encourage development and healing.

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