As 7-year-old Isabella Pirogowicz moves a controller with her hand, an animated monkey correspondingly stretches his long hand to pop a bubble. Isabella probably thinks she is just playing a fun computer game, but there’s actually more at play.
The game is therapy, helping Isabella, who has mild cerebral palsy, expand the range of motion in her affected arm. This game, in particular, targets movements called supination and pronation that are critical for performing daily tasks such as independent feeding, opening doors and writing.
Isabella’s occupational therapist, Mary Beth Doerr, has been providing feedback to the company that has developed the motion-based and color-tracking technology. In addition to cerebral palsy, games have been especially developed for use with patients with autism, traumatic brain injury, developmental delays and other special needs.
“It’s highly motivating for the kids,” said Mary Beth. “They don’t realize they are working and the games can often get a wider range of motions from them than other more standard approaches to therapy.”
So far Timocco, an Israeli start-up that selected Akron for its U.S. office, has developed more than 50 games for therapeutic use.
Since the software is web-based, it can easily be used just about anywhere you have a webcam and screen.
“Being web-based is nice because we can give parents a plan and they can work on the exact same skills at home that we are doing here at the hospital during therapy sessions,” said Mary Beth.
Isabella was excited to continue “playing” with her long-armed monkey friend at home in Lisbon, Ohio, and keep perfecting her skills until her next appointment with Mary Beth.