‘Exergames’ Put the Fun in Cerebral Palsy Therapy

Darcy Fehlings is the physician-director of the child development program at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Center. She is also a senior scientist at the Bloorview Research Institute. In this position, she works on new therapies for children and teens suffering from cerebral palsy.

One of her recent projects was a collaborative two-year study with Nick Graham of Queen’s University. Alongside the computer science professor, Fehlings created “exergames”- videogames that aim to improve physical fitness and capability in cerebral palsy patients.

This past summer, the testing phase began. Seven teenagers are participating in the project by playing the games from home. Each player sits on a bicycle in front of a television screen. Pedaling powers the game, and game pads allow the players to control their avatars through numerous live challenges. An attached headset lets the players talk to each other during the game.

Fehling explains: “Part of the work of being a child is to play games. If we can address that interest, it will make therapies much more fun for kids with cerebral palsy.” Lara Wong, a 15 year old participating in the exergames testing, said: “It’s a very beneficial thing to do, and it’s just awesome and fun. The people in the group are my friends, and I’ve noticed a difference in them too.”