University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Virtual Thrills, Real Gains

Computer games may help children with cerebral palsy, study finds

Children in wheelchairs are experiencing the thrill of sports like snowboarding and volleyball for the first time as participants in an unprecedented project in the department of occupational therapy. Prof. Denise Reid is leading a two-year study, funded by Kids Action Research, investigating the therapeutic applications of virtual reality games for children with cerebral palsy. The children see themselves in a virtual scene where their upper-body actions interact with objects in the virtual world. “I’m interested in the effect on the children’s movements,” she says, “but more important is whether the activity makes a difference in terms of their self-efficacy – for example, how good it makes them feel about themselves to play sports they never believed they would be able to play.”

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