I am a Special Education teacher who has a Wii system in the classroom. The concept of using a Wii for therapy is almost as old as the Wii itself. Many therapists who work with senior citizens have been using a Wii for therapy for a while. A Wii in the classroom can be fun, but it is also a lot of work. It is work for the kids and for the teacher as well. There are many challenges that a teacher faces when presenting a classroom Wii for therapeutic purposes.
This article will cover the following areas:
Using the Wii Remote
Using a Wii Fit with special needs students
How Does the Wii Help (various students with special needs)
Using the Wii Remote
Having a Wii for the students to use is fun, and it teaches the kids to take turns as well as win or lose with dignity. When we first started using the Wii in our classroom, only one student knew how to use it. Most of the students picked it up quickly enough, but we still had our fair share of problems. One of the biggest problems we had (and from time to time still have), is all of the buttons on the Wii remote. Depending on the severity of the student’s special needs, they may not be able to figure out which is the “A” button, or the “plus” or “minus” button. Likewise, there is a chance that they may not remember that the Wii remote has a button on the underside of the remote. You may want to consider purchasing a controller by Nyko. They have some controllers that have colored buttons. That way you would be able to say, “Press the red button” instead of “Press the A button”. That would also be a good idea for younger kids too.
After having been through training the kids, I would recommend not having an orientation when first getting the Wii. It would probably be better to show the students how to perform the various tasks as they need them. The added benefit to this is that as you slowly show them one action at a time, the repetition involved will help reinforce what they have just been taught.
Using a Wii Fit
We have used a Wii Fit in my classroom several times. I would recommend blocking out a big chunk of time when registering your kids on the Wii Fit. If any of the students have issues with standing still, or waiting 15 seconds, you may want to come up with other ways to get them to freeze while the Wii Fit is calculating their information.
Some of the games such as jogging are fairly straight forward. Most of the games take a lot of explanation. When I had my students try the hoola hoop game, they did not understand it. They would swing their hips back and forth (like it shows on the TV). I had to go to the gym and get a hoola hoop and show the kids it is not rocking back and forth; it is moving our hips around in a circle.
The best part about the Wii Fit is that it keeps track of the child’s progress so you can look back over the year and see where they started and track until their most recent session. You may notice trends of growth or stagnation that you can analyze and try to implement exercises to improve those areas.
How Does the Wii Help?
When I first considered getting a Wii for my classroom, I asked the physical therapist, occupational therapist and the speech therapist what they thought. All of them were in agreement that it was a wonderful idea for a special education classroom.
The Wii will work the children’s muscles all over their body. It helps with bilateral and unilateral coordination, and it improves hand-eye coordination. The Wii will also assist in the development of social skills (if they play with others) and it will help them to support others through cheering on and supporting their friends during the games.
Real life applications may include; increased speed going up and down the stairs (when using the Wii Fit), better hand-eye coordination for writing, and it may increase attention span since video games do not stop for commercials. Some special needs students may increase their stamina so that they can play longer, or walk further in the hallway without getting tired as easily.