Hoping to treat children with debilitating motor disorders, a retired dancer turned occupational therapist has created a new "virtual" method to analyse movement patterns in children.
Dr. Dido Green of Tel Aviv University's Department of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health Professionals is using a "virtual tabletop" called the Elements System, to "move" kids with disabilities and provide home-based treatments using virtual reality tools.
Combining new three-dimensional exercises with two-dimensional graphical movement games already programmed into the tabletop (which resembles an early video game), she has not only reported success, but also enthusiasm among her young patients.
"I've been working with children with movement disorders for the last 20 years. By the time I meet these children, they're sick of us. They've been 'over-therapied,' and it's difficult to get them to practice their exercises and prescribed treatment regimes," said Green.
"The virtual tabletop appealed to children as young as three and as old as 15. The movement-oriented games allowed them to 'make music' and reach targets in ways that are normally neither comfortable nor fun in the therapeutic setting," she added.
Green found that children with partial paralysis and motor dysfunction resulting from disorders such as cerebral palsy may be helped by giving them a new interface to explore.
Building upon earlier research she conducted at the Evelina Children's Hospital in London, she found that virtual reality applications enhance the skill sets learned by her patients.
Combined with new technology involving 3D Movement Analysis, Green hopes to develop this virtual tabletop-type game into new and effective therapy treatment regimes.
"Traditional approaches are labour-intensive and their results limited. Our research aims to create a complete system for therapist, parent and child. It could bring daily treatments into the home and provides therapists with a complete solution to track and analyse improvements or setbacks in the most accurate way to date," said Green.
She found some impressive results in children who attended sessions with her interface for three days a week over a period of about one month.
In future, Green hopes to develop the technique for remote rehabilitation, enabling children to practice movements at home with parental supervision.