Health Watch: Games to help kids heal

Physical therapy for most of us - the idea makes us cringe.

Being pulled and stretched, pushed to work muscles and joints that are already hurting. Now, imagine being a child and needing physical therapy.

For kids with a disability, recovering from cancer or any number of problems, it can be a struggle for therapists and parents to motivate them to exercise. Now, one woman has created an interactive solution to help kids get up and get going.

It looks like a game.

And sounds like one too.

But it's actually so much more.

"I described it to some of the families as a Wii but on steroids," said Elizabeth Hockey, PT, Pediatric Physical Therapist, Rainbows Babies and Children's Hospital.

This is augment therapy.

"Augment therapy is an interactive software that uses the medium of augmented and mixed reality to engage patients to perform therapeutic exercise. It really just changes the experience of therapy," explained Lindsay Watson, PT, MPT, Co-Founder & CEO, Augment Therapy, Inc.

Therapists choose what the child needs to work on. Thomas, a young, non-verbal teen with autism, needs work on his motor skills.

Lauren Baird, MOT, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist shared, "They don't know that they're exercising and they're having fun."

Having fun while augment therapy digitally tracks their progress.

"The camera's collecting data on their movement the whole time," continued Lindsay Watson, PT, MPT.

Nyleh Chambers has sickle cell disease. Her therapist is working to loosen stiff joints.

"So, our therapy is geared toward strengthening the muscles around those joints," stated Elizabeth Hockey, PT.

"It's fun, basically," shared Nyleh.

Born with cerebral palsy, 12-year-old Gessea is confined to a wheelchair.

Tammy Mitchell, Gessea's mom, emotionally told us, "I've never seen him so happy and so ecstatic. As a mother, it's something special to see him happy and want to do his exercises. It's special." (:14)

A game that's helping to solve some real problems.

The therapists have also used augment therapy to encourage children with cancer who are inpatients to get out of bed and move while they are required to stay in their rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Augment therapy is currently under clinical trial and is not on the market right now. Lindsay is hoping within this year to make it available to therapists, as well as parents, so kids can access the software at home as well.

Contributors: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.
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