Virtual Reality Helps Children Through Physical Therapy
Posted September 17, 2007 5:53 p.m. EDT
Virtual-reality technology is entertaining children during physical rehabilitation - and making it easier for them to get better.
Six-year-old Morgan Chisholm plays what seems like a normal video game. A camera and green-screen technology put her in a virtual world where she can play soccer or swim like a fish.
All those activities add up to effective physical therapy to help Morgan overcome the effects of cerebral palsy. She was born with the condition, which affects movement and posture. In the real world, she needs a walker, "because I'm not able to walk like other people," Morgan said.
Traditional therapy has helped Morgan, her mother, Jennifer Chisholm, said.
"For the most part, the legs work. It's just we don't have any balance," Chisholm said.
The virtual-reality system, IREX, that Morgan uses is all about balance. It allows her to reach and stretch, which strengthens abdominal muscles that help with balance.
Before Morgan begins, Chisholm slips under a green blanket to blend into the background and helps support Morgan while she plays the games. And after months of therapy, Morgan's mom is finding that she can, at times, let go.
"She just doesn't even realize she's coming up to a stand and balancing there on her own," Chisholm said.
Therapist Karen Christopher said the part part of the IREX system is that it's a game.
"They (children) don't even realize how hard they're working and how long they're working," she said.
Each physical therapy session with IREX is taking Morgan one step closer to her goal to walk on her own, Christopher said.