Osnat Arbel, BOT, MS Ed.
Director of Occupational Therapy ALYN Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel
Virtual reality (VR) is a unique tool used for assessment and intervention in pediatric rehabilitation that is motivating, fun and challenging, and can be tailored to the individual’s needs and abilities. VR technology enables people with disabilities to experiment with a variety of games that simulate virtual activities. The tasks involved in the performance of VR games in a rehabilitation setting can be used to target goals such as improving strength, endurance, balance, range of motion, and the speed and accuracy of the users’ movements. VR therapeutic systems can also record the data from the patients’ sessions providing a means to track their progress.
The Depts. of Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy at ALYN have incorporated treatments using the Wii and Xbox systems for a number of years. More recently, a virtual reality room has been allocated to provide access to seven different VR systems that include commercial off-the-shelf VR games as well as complex systems developed for use in rehabilitation centers for both individual treatment and group interactions. These systems include Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, a floor mat (OMI Projection System, www.oki.uk ), a touch table (Funky Touch, www.playzone.co.il), the VAST rehabilitation system (https://vast.rehab/) operated with a Kinect sensor, the Tyromotion’s TYMO rehabilitation system (https://tyromotion.com/en/products/tymo/), and the SenSerum immersive VR system (senserum.com) which incorporates the use of an HTC VIVE Head-mounted display.
Our challenge at ALYN is to make these systems accessible for children with very complex disabilities who lack the ability to operate the games through the standard use of the game controllers. For example, the Xbox system has been adapted through the use of external switches to operate the game controller. The room has been active for almost a year, during which time the clinical staff has been learning how to use these systems. The children respond positively and enjoy the treatments provided there. The room is used part of the week (2/5 days) by 25% of the OT staff and 10% of the PT staff. We have encountered several issues that need to be addressed in order to facilitate greater use of this treatment option. For example, setting up the systems is a challenge for the staff when their treatment time is limited, therefore a dedicated staff member now sets up and solves technical problems when they occur. An additional challenge is the willingness of the staff to adopt and implement new technologies. This was overcome by appointing technology champions that took upon themselves the responsibility to learn the programs and teach other staff.
We are in the process of planning studies to examine how these systems can benefit the advancement of treatment goals, compare between the different systems, and provide an in-depth examination of the unique contribution of using virtual reality systems as a leisure activity to enhance the quality of life and participation of the inpatient pediatric population.
(Original article source: ISVR Newsletter Issue 17)