Physical Therapy: Games to Help Kids Heal


CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire) — 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 to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.


REPORT #2742

BACKGROUND: Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. Most developmental disabilities begin before a baby is born, but some can happen after birth because of injury, infection, or other factors. These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead. Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six, or about 17%, of children aged three through 17 years have one or more developmental disabilities, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disability, learning disability, or vision impairment. Children and adults with disabilities need health care and programs to stay well, active, and a part of the community.


PHYSICAL THERAPISTS AND TREATMENT: Physical therapists develop a plan of care for each patient that promotes movement, reduces pain, restores function, and prevents disability. They work with the patient, family members, and other health care providers to ensure the goals of the plan are met and the patient has positive outcomes. Therapeutic exercise and functional training are the foundations of physical therapist treatment. Depending on the needs of a patient, physical therapists may manipulate a joint or massage a muscle to promote proper movement and function. They may use other techniques like electrotherapy, ultrasound (high-frequency waves that produce heat), hot packs, and ice. Physical therapists can also help to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. There is a high demand for physical therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by 36 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.


THERAPISTS USING AUGMENT THERAPY: Augment Therapy is an interactive software that engages kids to exercise using augmented reality. It’s camera technology that functions as a motivational tool, exercise prompt, and progress tracker for children needing therapeutic exercise. It can be used in any environment like a hospital, clinical setting, or at home. The games and challenges make exercising fun, and it automatically tracks the frequency of exercise and promotes consistency. The small and portable hardware allows children to continue their exercise programs anywhere they go, and it requires no wearable technology and is suitable for children with sensory issues. “There’s no other solution right now in physical therapy for children that is doing this,” says Lindsay Watson PT, MPT, CEO of Augment Therapy, who adds that innovation in pediatric physical therapy often takes a backseat to innovation for adults due to it being a smaller market.

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