Lakeside Center for Autism, and our use of the Xbox 360 and Kinect, were recently featured in a local television news story produced by Q13Fox.  Here is the link to the video and the story:

http://www.q13fox.com/news/kcpq-gaming-treatment-for-autism-used-in-issaquah-20111207,0,6997404.story

I certainly appreciated the human-interest side of the story, and I am a fan of all attempts to increase awareness of autism and other development differences.  LaConia, mother to one of our clients, had some extremely beautiful and stirring words to say about her son and his progress.  Oh, and I liked the camera work, narration, and our staff interviews.  However, the problem that I and my co-workers had with the report was the characterization of use of the Kinect and video games as “therapy.”  Use of any object or system – whether you are talking about a ball, a swing, flash cards, an iPad, or a Kinect, is not necessarily therapeutic by nature.  Rather, it is the overlay of therapeutic strategies and goals that give these materials all their power and meaning in therapy.

Here is an example of what I would consider successful use of the Kinect in speech-language therapy, which utilizes the motivation and novelty of the Kinect in order to set up opportunities for the child to problem-solve through language.  A child says, “I want Kinect.”  I could respond, “You want to eat Kinect?”  The child might respond, “no, I want to play Kinect.”  Then I would say, “OK, let’s play – what do we need to do?”  The child would be required to turn on the TV, turn on the Xbox, find the games, open the game box, take out the game disc, open the tray of the Xbox, put in the game disc, adjust the lighting, start the game, and lean the rules and controls of the game – all actions the child can request assistance with through language.  And because there is a prize of playing a video game, the motivation is there to sustain the child’s interest in working through various problems which arise – problems which can be “planted” by the therapist (e.g., unplugging the Xbox, hiding the games, etc.).  In one session, I encouraged a child to use language to problem-solve how to set up the Kinect for 25 minutes – leaving only 5 minutes at the end of the session to actually play a game.  To me, that was a fine therapeutic application of the Kinect – and actual video game playing was barely involved at all.

Posted by: Andy, Speech-Language Therapist