Occupational therapy can be daunting for any student. They often come into an OT situation frustrated and unwilling to accept help. Students with disabilities tend to be sensitive about their limitations, which can make therapy a challenge. Structuring an educational environment to allow for student success is critical to ensuring that students have a successful experience. Identifying ways to help students improve their skills while still having fun is just one example of how to help students in a classroom setting. Gamification is the process by which video games and educational goals can merge, creating a new way to teach students or help them focus on skills which need improving.
Occupational therapists can use video games and apps to engage students in a variety of ways. The Wii Fit is a fun and interesting way to work on motor skills and coordination, and music simulation games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero can help to build fine motor skills. These games can also help students with social goals, giving them a boost in self confidence, and a topic to discuss with their peers.
Apps allow for more portable therapy, enabling students to potentially continue their therapy goals while on the go. There are a variety of apps that can teach learning goals such as improving mathematical or language skills, apps that can improve fine motor skills, and even apps that simulate social interactions for students that may have trouble connecting with their peers. Students with autism spectrum disorder may benefit greatly from a social simulation app such as Model Me and “What Would You do at School If..?”
Therapists can use their time in a session to encourage students and praise them for the skills they have already mastered. Building positive feedback and praise when a child completes a difficult task will help them feel accomplished, and further inclined to repeat the task–even if it is something they do not excel at. Finding a student’s strengths and weaknesses will allow a therapist to better address where to focus therapy. Improving a child’s cognitive skills can also be done through the use of apps and traditional games. Board games can focus on recall, critical thinking skills, and memorization of facts. There are a variety of apps for iPad and Android tablets that also help students with cognitive thinking, and offer ways to improve it. The Dexteria family of apps is a favorite of many occupational therapists, and well worth looking into. These apps range from spatial reasoning to fine motor skills, and are available purchased in bulk for educators and school districts.
Technology enables occupational therapists to aid students like never before. Bridging the gap between a repetitive task and something fun has never been easier. Some apps even come with worksheets that students can complete during therapy and bring home to their parents to show their progress. If you use technology in your practice, how has it helped you? Is the gamification trend more of a hindrance? Share your thoughts with us!