Saturday, 24 January 2009

Benefits of Digital Gaming & Chess For Disability Therapy



The advent of digital chess (computer chess and internet chess) has had a beneficial effect on the lives of many people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy. The benefits of digital chess include, apart from recreation, the use as a learning tool for children and adults. For the more highly skilled chess players the internet has also revolutionised accessibility to chess competitions that could never have been imagined before the 1990s.

In this article (here) Amit Pitaru, from the Intertelecommunications Program at New York University, discusses the potential beneficial effects of computer gaming for disabled children. Pitaru describes how the occupational therapists at the Henry Viscardi School (HVS - Albertson, New York) have effectively incorporated digital gaming into their therapy program. Included in this article is some discussion about the therapeutic benefits of digital chess.
For example, some students at HVS cannot reach out and move chess pieces on their own. Instead, on every turn they must communicate their choice of move to an assistant, who then carries on the physical task for them. Playing the game in this manner develops valuable cognitive skills for the children, but it bears little value toward development of hand–eye coordination, muscular exercises, and other physical aspects. On an emotional level, not being able to control the play independently enforces the notion of helplessness that the child experiences on a daily basis.

In contrast, installing a digital chess game on an accessible computer may enable the child to move the simulated chess pieces on the screen without assistance. Here the child is in full control of the challenge by completing a cognitive desire with a physical act, which heightens the child’s sense of accomplishment. From a therapeutic standpoint, the child improves hand–eye coordination, directionality, and visual perception. By practicing the operation of the computer on which the game is installed, the child also improves his or her overall literacy of using computers toward other nongame tasks.

In providing alternate means for children with disabilities to utilize their cognitive abilities, their pathway to the game mirrors that of a typical child. Aware of this fact, the children not only tap into the full learning potential of the game, but are also empowered by the fact that they can play the game in a “typical” manner. All of these factors render the digital game beneficial as a therapeutic tool, and an equally fun one for the children to play.
Reference:
Pitaru, Amit. “E Is for Everyone: The Case for Inclusive Game Design." The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning.
Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 67–88.
doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.067

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