June 2012

Kids with Cerebral Palsy Benefit from Wii and Active Video Games

feet of a child with cerebral palsy on a wii board

Children often spend too much time playing video games, but recent research shows that active video games (AVG), such as those played on a Nintendo Wii, may also serve as  rehabilitation therapy for children with cerebral palsy (CP).

Seventeen children with CP took part in a research study conducted by Toronto’s Bloorview Research Institute at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Toronto. The research team, led by Elaine Biddiss, PhD, tracked the energy, motion, and muscle activity of the children while they played Wii Bowling, Tennis, Boxing, and Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). After the data was recorded, the children completed a survey regarding their enjoyment while playing the games. The researchers then evaluated the intensity of the physical activity and the therapeutic potential of the games.

Wii Benefits Kids with Cerebral Palsy

“Active video games provide a low-cost, commercially available system that can be strategically selected to address specific therapeutic goals,” stated Biddiss. “While our results did not show that AVG game play can be regarded as a replacement for more vigorous physical activity or muscle strengthening, we found that some games may provide targeted therapy focused on specific joints or movements.”

family with disabled son playing wii together

In particular, Wii Boxing and DDR, which require full body movements, provided a moderate level of physical activity for children with mild CP, but the activity was not vigorous enough to build endurance or strength. Games such as Wii Boxing are a good choice for training faster wrist movements, an important therapy for children with CP that commonly experience difficulty extending the wrists.

Kids with Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy Benefit from Wii

Children with hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects the limbs on one side of the body, engaged both upper limbs when playing Wii Boxing and DDR. “Wii boxing, or similar games, may be an effective motivational environment for encouraging increased movement speed of the hemiplegic limb, in addition to the bilateral use of the limbs, because in-game success is strongly linked to these two metrics,” noted Biddiss.

a screenshot from wii boxing

Additional benefits to AVG play include repetitive movement and feedback provided to the player via on-screen avatars and scores. The feedback could promote neuroplastic change (the ability for the brain to reorganize and grow after disease or injury) and the high level of enjoyment reported by the participants also enhances neuroplasticity.

“While not a replacement for structured exercise and physical therapy, AVGs may encourage children with CP to be physically active and to practice complex motor activities. There are many opportunities for further research. Future development and optimization of AVG technologies may usher in a new age in physical rehabilitation where virtual environments provide an arena for neuroplastic change in the comfort of one’s home,” concluded Biddiss.

Cerebral Palsy Kids Benefit from Wii Sports


Image sources:

Paralyzed Woman Uses Thought Control to Move Robotic Arm, Drink Coffee

Cathy Hutchinson BrainGate Thought Controlled Robotic Arm

If you were suddenly given the ability to move after years of paralysis, what’s the first thing you would do? How about drinking a cup of coffee? That’s what Cathy Hutchinson was able to do, by using a robotic arm she controlled with her thoughts.

This latest experiment in the harnessing of brainwaves for assistive robotic technology was recently featured in the journal Nature. Scientists at Brown University, the Providence VA Medical Center in Rhode Island, and Harvard Medical School placed tiny sensors into the brains of subjects to monitor the electrical activity of brain cells.

BrainGate Sensors for Thought Controlled Paralysis Robot

The BrainGate sensor sends signals to a computer, which interprets the brain patterns through practice as the paralyzed patients watch robotic arms move, then imagine they were moving their own arms in the same manner. Participants were asked to direct the robot arm to reach out and squeeze foam balls that were placed in front of them.

BrainGate Thought Control Paralysis Robot Arm

Cathy Hutchinson was asked to try to use the arm to drink from a bottle of coffee in front of her. She was able to pick up the bottle, bring it to her lips for a sip, and then place it back on the table in front of her. Four of her six attempts were successful.

Paralyzed Woman Thought Controlled Robotic Arm BrainGate Coffee

Her success was particularly exciting, as the BrainGate sensor had been placed in her brain five years earlier. It proved also that her brain was generating useful signals, despite the fact she had been paralyzed for fifteen years.

BrainGate Neuroscientist Leigh Hochberg

“The smile on her face … was just a wonderful thing to see,” said Leigh Hochberg, a neuroengineer with the Providence VA, Brown and Massachusetts General Hospital.

BrainGate Sensors Implant for Thought Controlled Paralysis Robotic Arm

Unfortunately, this technology is very costly, and that barrier makes it prohibitive for widespread use. The technology also needs to become more reliable and more refined. Currently, the brain implant requires a wire through the skull to send signals. Experts want to develop a fully implanted version that can communicate wirelessly, and they also expect to use the technology for prosthetic limbs in the near future.

BrainGate Neuroscientist John Donahue

Co-researcher and director of the Brain Institute at Brown University, John Donoghue added the reminder that this research is still in the early stages. “We’ll have truly met our goal when someone who lost mobility to neurological injury or disease can truly interact with their environment without anyone knowing that they are employing a brain-computer interface.”


Video source:

Image sources:

Special Needs Student Disciplined in a Cardboard Box

Joy Amatuccio's Disabled Son Jacob Disciplined at School in a Box

Caldwell County School District in North Carolina is investigating horrific claims that a special needs student was forced into a cardboard box as a form of punishment earlier this year.

Disabled Jacob Amatuccio Received Discpline at School in a Box

Fourteen-year-old Jacob Amatuccio suffered a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, as an infant and occasionally has outbursts. Teachers at Hudson Middle School, where he attends school in a special needs classroom, have an “Individual Behavior Plan” for Jacob that includes how to handle his outbursts. Classroom aides are instructed to walk Jacob around outside or in the halls to distract him. Nowhere in his plan does the school, or its teachers, have permission to place Jacob in a cardboard box for “time out.”

Special Needs Student Jacob Amatuccio Was Placed in this Cardboard Box

“It’s a complete lack of dignity, whether he understands it or not,” decried Jacob’s mother, Joy Amatuccio.

Amatuccio was horrified when she learned from another classmate’s parent what the teacher was doing to Jacob. The other parent took a photograph of the box and inquired as to why the box was in the classroom.

Joy Amatuccio's Disabled Son Was Disciplined at School in a Cardboard Box

“She asked the teacher what the box was for and said the teacher told her it was for Jacob,” recalled Amatuccio. “She would wheel him in there and let down the flap. He was all alone, in the dark, in a box. She used it to calm him down, as a form of time out.”

Joy Amatuccio's Disabled Son School Box Discipline

The box stayed in the classroom for about three days, and then it disappeared.

“What kind of person puts a child in a box? What kind of person puts a disabled child in a box or any human being in a box,” asked Amatuccio.

Joy Amatuccio Disabled Son School Box Discipline

Amatuccio called the school the morning following her discussion with the other parent. She was stunned to learn that the principle knew about the box and the punishment. He also knew that she was unaware of the situation, but made no effort to let her know of his discovery.

“He apologized for his negligence in not telling me. He knew Jacob was being put in a box. He said he did what he had to do and got rid of the box. He knew I didn’t know about it,” said Amatuccio.

Justice for Jacob Amatuccio Facebook Page

Amatuccio has set up a Facebook page to call attention to her son’s treatment called, Justice For Jacob Amatuccio. She has also set up an online petition called, The Caldwell Department of Education, North Carolina: Fire the teacher that put our disabled son in a box as discipline.

The county school district’s Community Service Director, Libby Brown, stated that the school district had been in meetings to discuss the allegations earlier in the day. She stated that it was a personnel issue that is now under investigation.

Since the original story broke, the teacher has been transferred to another school.


Video sources:

Image sources:

Arthur Boorman Fully Recovered from Disability After Yoga

Disabled Veteran Walks Independently Again After Yoga

Fifteen years ago, Arthur Boorman was told by his doctors that he would never walk unassisted again. A disabled veteran of the Gulf War, Boorman accepted his fate. His weight climbed to 300 pounds, and he could only walk with the assistance of canes. After stumbling upon “Diamond” Dallas Page’s version of yoga, however, he decided to give it a try, and the results are nearly unbelievable.

Vet Loses Disability After Yoga - Arthur Boorman

“It all started with that first step in February. On February 9th, 2007, I weighed almost 300 pounds. I was morbidly obese. To be exact, I weighed two hundred and ninety seven pounds. I could only walk using crutches and leg braces. I needed to wear a back brace, and I needed help to do the simplest tasks like dressing myself. I had sleep apnea and I was a prime candidate for a stroke or heart attack,” says Boorman, on the DDP Yoga website.

Unable to do traditional high impact exercises, Boorman tried the wrestling superstar’s unique yoga workout. He needed a chair for balance, and straps to help hold himself in the difficult positions, but he never gave up. He fell many times, but got up and kept going.

Arthur's transformation

“I took control. I stopped thinking of myself as a victim of my injuries. I stopped thinking of these as permanent conditions. I started thinking of how to fix things. I started working the program every day. I fell down many times. Hard. I got back up every time, more determined than ever to make this work. To tell the truth, there were a few days when I was tired, or sore, but I listened to DDP’s CD for encouragement,” writes Boorman.

Disabled Veteran Walks After Yoga - Before-After Photos

“After I got over that hurdle, I quickly began to look forward to my DDP Yoga workouts. I really enjoyed the way I felt when I was doing the DDP Yoga. It made me feel strong and alive for the first time in many years.”

Disabled Vet Arthur Boorman Walks After Yoga - Before-After Photos

Boorman emailed Dallas, telling him his story, and the two communicated regularly. Dallas encouraged Boorman to keep going and to believe in himself.

Over time, Boorman gained strength, balance and flexibility. The pounds began to melt away. He had hope that someday he would prove the doctor’s diagnosis wrong, and walk again.

Vetheran Arthur Boorman DDP Yoga Disability and Weight Loss

As the video shows, Boorman did it. He shed 140 pounds in ten months, and proved his doctors wrong. Watch the video. You won’t regret it!

video platform
video management
video solutions
video player

The original Youtube video sensation came from a film called “Inspired” that is currently in production. More information about that film can be found on their website at www.inspiredthemovie.com and through this video:


Video sources:

Image sources:

Barbie Changes the Lives of Balinese Girls with Disabilities

Wheelchair Indonesian Barbie Restiti Sisters

Putu and Alit Restiti live on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali. The area is a tourist attraction, with white-sand beaches, fancy resort hotels and an active nightlife full of clubs. Celebrities like Paris Hilton, surfers, and backpackers flock to the island, which receives millions of tourists each year. But Putu and her little sister know nothing of this world. The two have spent their lives hidden in a run-down shack, invisible to others because they were born with twisted limbs that villagers believe were caused by evil spirits. But it only took the gift of a few Barbie dolls — and the powerful imagination of the girls — to create new lives for themselves.

While most of their nation is Muslim, the majority of Balinese people are Hindu. Their unique form of faith worships ancestors, and it is commonly believed that prosperity can only be achieved through the blessings of dead relatives. Children born with deformities are believed to embody the bad spirits of generations past. These children are an embarrassment to their families and are often locked away from the public view. In extreme cases, the children are left to survive on their own, abandoned by the families they so desperately need to care for them.

Disabled Indonesian Barbie Restiti Sisters

Sakti Soediro volunteers with a health organization that assists disabled youth. While browsing a midwife’s notes, she discovered a child born feet first, who nearly cost the mother her life. The child disappeared without a trace, and no health records existed of her anywhere. Determined to figure out what happened to the young girl, Soediro went door-to-door for over a month.

Soediro eventually found the child deep in the islands interior, where families live in devastating poverty. In the rice-farming community of Sognan, she found Jero Widiani, a seamstress struggling to raise five daughters after being abandoned by her husband. Three of the girls were healthy, but even neighbors were unaware that two remaining daughters were hidden inside.

Disabled Indonesian Barbie Sister Putu Restiti - Bali

Putu, the oldest of the girls, has distorted legs. Her younger sister, Alit, is no bigger than a toddler, with her ribcage pressing tightly against her lungs, making breathing difficult. She is unable to speak, has no mobility in her legs, and has use only of one arm.

Soediro visited the girls again, bringing with her a few Barbie dolls. On her third visit, Putu and Alit showed her a stack of miniature dresses and sarongs, fitted perfectly for the dolls. Amazed by the girls’ craftsmanship, Soediro helped the girls sell the tiny dresses in shops, priced from $2 to $4 per piece. The girls are now earning $70 each month and helping to feed their family.

Disabled Indonesian Barbie Sister Alit Restiti - Bali

Even more surprising than the income the girls are earning is the friendships they have made. Before the discovery of their hidden talent for making miniature dresses, the girls had no contact with the villagers. Now the neighborhood girls come to visit them often.

“They just want to be our friends,” Putu says with a smile, as girls run in and out of the living room, others lingering curiously in the doorway. “And that’s what we want, too.”

Indonesian Barbie Fashion Handicapped Restiti Sisters

The family has no beds, cabinets, or chairs, but the girls have created a miniature palace for their Barbies with furniture made from cardboard, tiny hand-stitched blankets for their beds, and walls decorated with brightly colored gift wrap.

“I feel happy now,” Putu says. “I’m more excited now to live.”

Barbie in Indonesian dress


Image sources:

Paralyzed Mom Finishes London Marathon in a ReWalk Bionic Suit

Paralyzed Mom Claire Lomas Completes London Marathon

This year’s London Marathon was started the morning of April 22nd, but its dramatic conclusion came on May 8th, when Claire Lomas became the first person to complete it using a robotic suit. Paralyzed from the chest down after a horseback riding accident in 2007, Lomas finished the 26.2 mile course in sixteen days, with her husband and her one-year-old daughter walking the last few meters alongside her. Her victory brought controversy, however, as the officials from the London Marathon announced her name would not be in the official marathon results, nor would she receive a medal, as she did not complete the race in the same day.

Paralyzed Mom Walks Entire London Marathon

Lomas wore a bionic ReWalk suit that enables people with lower-limb paralysis to move with the use of motion sensors and an on-board computer system. The suit recognizes the wearer’s shift in balance, which triggers the suit to mimic the response that joints would have if they were functioning. ReWalk suits allow wearers to stand, walk, and even climb stairs. Lomas managed to complete two miles per day with the aid of the suit.

Paralyzed Mom Claire Lomas Walks Entire London Marathon with ReWalk Suit

The support has been breathtaking and it feels fantastic to finally finish,” said Lomas. “I really didn’t expect this and I can’t quite believe it’s all for me. Everyone has been so supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them. There were times when I questioned whether I would make it when I was training. Once I started, I just took each day as it came and every step got me a step closer.”

Paralyzed Mom Finishes London Marathon on Own Two Feet

Lomas raised more than £86,000 (about $133,000) for the charity Spinal Research, which funds medical research to develop reliable treatments for paralysis caused by broken backs and necks. The charity was contacted by London Marathon officials to make them aware of the race’s policy about late finishes.

Other marathon participants voiced their outrage when they learned that Lomas would not receive a medal for her efforts. Jacqui Rose was one of thirteen marathon runners to show up at the finish line. Like the other runners, she was there not only to show support, but to give her own medal to Lomas.

Paralyzed Mom Completes London Marathon

“That medal symbolizes the achievement of what you have gone out of your way to do for charity,” stated Rose. “For her not to have got one ridicules what the marathon is all about.”

Sir Richard Branson, the head of race sponsor Virgin, caught wind of the outrage when fellow competitors complained of the unfairness via Twitter. His daughter, Holly Branson, was among those at the finish line, there to award Lomas the Virgin trophy for endurance.

To learn more about Claire Lomas‘s amazing feat, watch the inspiring videos below:


Image sources:

Girl with Cerebral Palsy Speaks First Words – What Were They?

Girl with Cerebral Palsy Speaks First Words

Charlene Cooper-Barnes and her husband John waited five years to hear their daughter, Lexie, speak her first words. With the help of an eye-recognition computer, the British couple got their wish, and Lexie was able to speak through a synthesized voice program at last.

Lexie was born with severe cerebral palsy, but despite her physical challenges, her cognitive abilities were like any other five-year-old child. Lexie requires a wheelchair for mobility, but communication has remained a struggle with her parents and friends at school.

“It is very rare for a child to be so physically disabled but so mentally able,” said Charlene. “Seeing her use the laptop is amazing. It is brilliant to see her so excited because for the first time she has a voice and it brings tears to my eyes.”

Lexie Cooper-Barnes Speaks First Words with Cerebral Palsy

Her speech therapist recommended the equipment, which includes a $32,000 laptop similar to the one used by Stephen Hawking, to allow Lexie to communicate with the people around her. While her parents understood her noises and actions, others who did not know her well did not understand her attempts at communication.

The couple raised the money for the equipment with a fundraiser and were amazed at the response they received. “To say we are absolutely overwhelmed is an understatement. People who have never met us, and probably never will meet us, have been so generous,” said Charlene.

The new device allows Lexie to communicate by choosing phrases with her eyes and then speaks the words she chooses with a synthesized voice.

Lexie Has Cerebral Palsy and Finally Speaks First Words

“We do not know what the future will hold for Lexie, but allowing her to communicate was a priority. She can make friends and enjoy school as much as any other child and that is the best feeling in the world,” Charlene said. “She has so much going on inside her head, you can see it in her eyes and this equipment has unlocked all that potential and made her life easier.”

What were Lexie’s first words? “I love you, mum,” of course!


Image sources:

Tips for Handicap Accessible Gardening

an example of a wheelchair accessible garden

Summer is here, and it is a great time to get out in the fresh air and work in the garden. Many people find gardening therapeutic; it offers physical as well as mental and emotional stimulation. With the help of special adaptive tools, nearly anyone with a disability can still reap the benefits of indoor or outdoor gardening. With careful planning and the right tools, gardens can be designed to work around most limitations.

Handicap Accessible Garden

Tips for Planning an Accessible Garden

Instead of giving into the impulse to jump right in, taking time to map out your garden will allow you to ensure that caring for your garden will be possible. Here are a few considerations to get you started:

  • Plan garden paths to have a firm surface such as concrete walkways or rubber mats between rows, and allow at least 3 feet of walkway for wheelchair access.
  • Raise the beds of the garden to at least 2 feet tall for wheelchair users or for those who have difficulty bending or kneeling to garden.

raised garden bed is wheelchair accessible

  • Consider the width of the bed. For wheelchair users, 2 feet is an ideal reach, while 2.5 feet is ideal for those that can stand. If you can place walkways on either side of the bed, you can double the width to 4 feet for wheelchair reach or 5 feet for standing reach.
  • Place newspaper or weed-suppressing membranes down and plant your garden in slits in the material or paper and apply plenty of mulch around plants to discourage weeds from taking root.

Adaptable Gardening Tools

Traditional gardening tools may present a challenge for certain types of disabilities. Consider some of the following tools to make gardening easier:

tool for accessible gardening special trowel handle for accessible gardening special cultivator for accessible garden special handles can make garden tools more usable


  • Cut and Hold tools are available in various sizes and require the use of only one hand. These tools allow for pruning and dead heading, and make working with difficult to reach areas a breeze.
  • Snap-on, twist-on, and clip-on heads provide additional reach when used in a sitting position.
  • If reaching the soil level is a challenge, there are a variety of gardening tools manufactured for people with disabilities. These often have handles that allow the hand and wrist to remain in a neutral, stress-free position.

There are so many benefits to working in a garden, from the fresh air and vitamin D to just the pleasure of watching things grow. Why not make gardening part of your summer this year?

Wheehclair Accessible Gardening


Image sources:

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again with Chemical, Electrical Stimulation

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Scientists at the Swiss Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have found a way to restore full movement in rats paralyzed by spinal cord injuries. This new approach to a problem scientists have been trying to solve for years involves spinal nerve stimulation to help overcome the paralysis.

Gregoire Courtine led a team of researchers working for half a decade to make rats with severe paralysis walk again. The rats’ spinal cords were cleanly cut, then researchers stimulated spinal nerve circuits with an electrical current from implanted electrodes, in addition to injections of a chemical mix.

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again chart

After the treatment, the rats underwent thorough physical training. Secured in a harness so that only their back feet touched the ground, the rats were then placed on a treadmill, which produced reflexive stepping. Once they regained that reflexive movement they were placed on solid ground, still in the harness, and motivated to move their legs to reach a piece of tempting chocolate. It took only two to three weeks from the onset of training before the rats were moving on their own.

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

“Our rats are not only voluntarily initiating a walking gait, but they are soon sprinting, climbing up stairs and avoiding obstacles,” said Courtine.

To date, over 100 rats have regained the walking ability, to varying degrees, thanks to the treatment that produces an extensive rewiring in the brain and spinal cord.

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

“This kind of approach will not cure spinal cord injury, but it might someday help some patients recover more ability to move around,” Courtine continued. “Only human studies will show how much the technique might help.”

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Several points must be taken into consideration before the human studies begin. First, it is unclear if this type of electrochemical kick start could have an effect on spinal cords that have been damaged for an extended period of time. Often, older spinal cord injuries have scar tissue, holes and areas where a significant number of nerve cells and fibers have died or degenerated. Another point is that very few people have the clean-break spinal cord injuries similar to the rats in the study.

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

What the new research does give hope to, is that this therapy may be able to “wake up” a dormant spinal column. This “wake up call” may induce the spine’s natural ability to adapt and recover from injuries, a phenomenon that is known as neuroplasticity.

Swiss Paralysis Scientists of the Courtine G-Lab at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Internationally, scientists are agreeing that there is promise in this study. Bryce Vissel, head of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Laboratory at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, remarked that the study “suggests we are on the edge of a truly profound advance in modern medicine: the prospect of repairing the spinal cord after injury.”


Image sources:

Spinal Cord Injury Patients Report Wheelchair Breakdowns on the Rise

wheelchairs being repaired and customized

A recent report has shown a dramatic increase in wheelchair breakdowns over the past five years for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI). Over 700 SCI wheelchair users were surveyed in a report published by the American Journal of Physical Medicine, and more than half of them had suffered breakdowns serious enough to require repair.

The study, which looked at data provided by patients between 2006 and 2011, was led by Dr. Michael Boninger of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. The patients provided routine data on the type of breakdowns and any consequences the breakdown caused, such as missing doctors’ appointments, being stranded, or injuries.

Spinal Cord Injury Patients Report Wheelchair Repairs on the Rise

The data showed that 53% of the 700 involved in the study had a wheelchair malfunction or breakdown that required a repair, up from 45% in previous years. The number of adverse consequences resulting from the breakdown increased also, rising from 22% to 30.5%.

“It is possible that this increase in the number of repairs is the result of a decrease in wheelchair quality resulting from changes in reimbursement policies and a lack of enforcement of standards testing,” wrote the researchers.

a wheelchair repair program

The research also shows a correlation between the number of repairs and the funding source. Patients with wheelchairs provided by Medicare or Medicaid had a significantly higher rate of breakdown than wheelchairs purchased by individuals or paid for with private insurance. And wheelchairs provided by the Veterans Association had a lower incidence of breakdown than those provided by Medicaid and Medicare.

Additionally, the study showed that racial and ethnic minority wheelchair users had a higher incidence of mechanical breakdown and repairs as compared to white wheelchair users, with minority users having less access to a backup wheelchair.

This data may be the result of changes in insurance reimbursement policies, as well as Medicaid and Medicare’s new competitive bidding in some regions, which allows competing companies to bid for contracts that provide medical equipment to patients, sometimes substituting quality to underbid competitors. Sadly, there is no requirement that forces testing to ensure wheelchairs meet established standards for performance and safety at this time.

a wheelchair

“This paper should serve as a call to reevaluate and revise current policies and standards testing for wheelchair prescription in the United States,” stated Dr. Boninger in the report.

Although lesser quality wheelchairs and a lack of repair reimbursement may be at the heart of many of the breakdown issues, the study also suggested that wheelchair users should receive better instructions in the care and routine maintenance of their equipment when they receive their wheelchair in order to avoid many of the simple wear and tear issues that arise.

Have you noticed any differences with the quality of your wheelchair experience in recent years?


Image sources: