April 30 - Children with dyspraxia, a condition that causes co-ordination and balance problems, have been shown to benefit from therapy using the Nintendo Wii Fit video game. British researchers want to conduct further tests but believe the Wii could make a significant difference in the lives of afflicted children. Jim Drury reports.
Eight year old Anna Greco suffers from dyspraxia, a developmental disorder which makes her clumsy and uncoordinated. She's undergoing her first session of an unconventional therapy...using Nintendo's Wii gaming system. Researchers at London's Goldsmiths College say the Wii Fit game shows promise as a tool for helping Anna - and thousands of others - improve their motor skills. UPSOT: ANNA SAYING: "Stay on, stay on, stay on" Anna's mother Monica says dyspraxia presents unique challenges for children and parents alike. SOUNDBITE (English) MONICA GRECO, MOTHER OF EIGHT YEAR OLD ANNA GRECO, SAYING: "It's a rare meal that we go through without something being spilt, sometimes a whole jug of water being spilled, with big wet consequences for everybody else. Also a major area where we see it a lot is her clothes and her getting dressed or undressed. She cannot really do or undo her buttons." In a small pilot study, led by Psychology Professor Elisabeth Hill, dyspraxic children were split into two groups - one using traditional methods of testing and the other using Wii Fit. After spending three ten minute sessions per week using the game, those in the second group made greater progress than expected. SOUNDBITE (English) ELISABETH HILL, PROFESSOR OF NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS AT GOLDSMITHS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, AND STUDY CO-AUTHOR, SAYING: "We got them to do a whole series of movement tests - running, balancing, putting pegs into a board, using scissors, those sorts of activities - before they started the intervention and then afterwards and we saw a significant, so a statistically significant improvement from pre-intervention to post-intervention when that intervention was the Wii Fit." The children's own perception of motor skill improvement was also noticeable....even when things didn't go to plan..... UPSOT: ANNA SAYING "Arrhhh" Hill says the 'cool' factor of having a Wii to play with, was also important. SOUNDBITE (English) ELISABETH HILL, PROFESSOR OF NEURODEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS AT GOLDSMITHS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, AND STUDY CO-AUTHOR, SAYING: "Other children from the school were wanting to join in because it was cool and these children are not normally the cool kids. They're normally the children who are on the periphery in the playground......so for other children to be saying 'we want to take part in what you're doing', I think must be a big motivator." Dyspraxia is a neurological disorder in which messages from the brain are not fully transmitted to the body. Around one in 20 children are affected and there's no cure, only coping strategies. Hill believes the Wii Fit offers the best coping strategy yet. Monica Greco also sees its potential. SOUNDBITE (English) MONICA GRECO, MOTHER OF EIGHT YEAR OLD ANNA GRECO, SAYING: "It's nice to see her interacting with the Wii and she's very proud of the fact that she can be good at it and she can be a champion and I saw a little bit of that today." Hill and her team want to fund a larger study into the therapy. The consol and balance board are relatively inexpensive, and patients embrace their therapy with enthusiasm. It's a practical solution, says Hill, for both parents and patients. UPSOT: ANNA EXHALING AND RESEARCHERS LAUGHING