Video game improves balance in children with autism

A video game that promotes balance by instructing users to hold poses could help children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Poor balance is common in children with ASD. It is thought to correlate with severe ASD symptoms and difficulties in daily life. In this study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a balancing video game in improving such behavior in children with ASD.

"We think this video game-based training could be a unique way to help individuals with ASD who have challenges with their balance address these issues," said lead author Brittany Travers, an investigator at UW-Madison's Waisman Center and an assistant professor of kinesiology.

The study enrolled 29 participants with ASD from 7 to 17 years old to complete a six-week program. In the game, participants are shown a certain pose on the screen and are rewarded when they mimic the pose shown. The Microsoft Kinect camera and Nintendo Wii balancing board were used to measure the participants movements. Overall, participants showed a significant improvement in game poses, balance and posture by completing the gaming program.

"We already have some features that help—the game has very little verbal instruction, which should make it more accessible to individuals who are minimally verbal," said Travers. "Ultimately, we would like to move this video game-based training outside the lab."