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  • Kristin McNealus, DPT, MBA

Gamification Found Me!

I have been a physical therapist for 15 years, working with adults, generally with neurological impairments, and honestly never considered how to make my sessions fun. Function was my goal, so high repetition and high intensity was most important. Then I had the opportunity to see one of my clients who had a stroke use a virtual reality system. It made a game of trying to utilize the weak arm as well as challenging sitting balance. My client had a lot of fun that she did not want to stop – which was not a reaction I had ever elicited! Then I got a client who, besides her stroke, also had a developmental delay. I was prepared to address the impairments due to the stroke, but was informed that if it was not fun, she would just stop doing therapy. It has been a fun challenge for me to develop games that would hold her attention and address her hemiparesis, impaired balance, and aphasia. I have then used the games with the other clients, who have enjoyed them just as much!

The first game I came up with was a modified version of Twister! I thought it could be done on elbows and knees as a modified quadruped, reaching the limb to the color as designated by the spinner. This did not work for us, so we went to standing and reaching down.

The dots had basic questions for my client to answer, or shape to announce. This can be done while balancing in the new position or completed when the person is safely in stable position.

Play around with where you’d what the client to be positioned and how much you want to challenge the balance. Play around also with the questions you want to put on the dots. My clients have enjoyed the game enough to last a full session!

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