Friday, October 21, 2011

New device built by Utah Assistive Technology Lab helps six-year-old play Wii

By Storee Powell

Six-year-old Dillon Lundahl, a Cache Valley resident, got his birthday wish – a Wii video game console.
But Dillon and his family quickly learned he couldn’t play the Wii like his brothers could because of his lack of balance and sensation in his feet. The game console requires motions and movements of the body while the player holds a remote. The remotes are wireless controllers which can be used as a handheld pointing device and detects movement in three dimensions.

Six-year-old Dillon Lundahl uses a stand built by
the Assistive Technology Lab that allows him
to be able to play the Wii game console while Mom
Erica and therapist Shaun Dahle give encouragement.
Erica Lundahl, Dillon’s mother, said, “Dillon was born without the right side of his brain which controls motor, so he has no balance, is blind in the right eye and has little feeling in his feet. He has to work a little harder at life than everybody else.”

Such a condition is known as a Cephalic disorder. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website, the disorder is caused by damage to, or abnormal development of, the developing nervous system, usually before birth. The degree to which the mind and body is affected by the disorder varies enormously. Many disabilities are mild enough to allow those afflicted to eventually function independently in society, like Dillon. (See another story of a girl born with half a brain amazing scientists at Daily Mail Online.)
Despite the setback, Erica was determined to find a way to help Dillon be able to play with his birthday gift alongside his brothers because she knew he was capable if he had a little help. Erica said Dillon’s mental development is normal for his age. He entered first grade this year and attends a regular classroom.

She took Dillon and the game console to Amy Henningsen, occupational therapist at the Assistive Technology Lab ( at Utah State University, an initiative of the Utah Assistive Technology Program.  The Lab helps the disability community in Utah fabricate and repair assistive technology.

Henningsen sat down with AT Lab coordinator, Clay Christensen, and hammered out an idea for a device that would give Dillon the balance and guidance he needed to play the Wii. The result was a stand that allows Dillon to brace himself while playing the game.
The stand was built by Christensen in the lab without any reference, and is thought to be the first of its kind, a revolutionary concept born out of necessity.

Dillon Lundahl plays the
Wii Fit during physical therapy to
work on his balance.
Christensen said the stand is custom fit to Dillon’s needs, and has the ability to fold up so it can be stored easily.
Now Dillon can not only play with his brothers and friends on the Wii, but now uses it in conjunction with the Wii Fit during therapy. The Wii Fit is an exercise game that utilizes an electronic balance board on which a player stands during exercise. Yoga, strength training, and balance games are featured.

The Balance Board is placed under Dillon’s fit and he can use the stand for balance and stability as he plays the games, which encourages him to use muscles he otherwise would not, increasing his balance and ability to use his lower trunk. (Watch Dillon play the Wii Fit during therapy on YouTube below.)
Shaun Dahle, Dillon’s physical therapist at the Logan Regional Pediatric Rehabilitation Program, said the benefit of using the Wii Fit during physical rehab is that “It gives Dillon a visual indicator of what his feet are doing. He can’t move his feet very well because he has little feeling in them. This lets him tie those two things together.”

While the cephalic disorder may negatively affect some of his mobility, Dillon’s zest for life is apparent as he comes into physical therapy with Star Wars light saber flashing in hand and an excited smile on his face.
Christensen said, “Watching someone achieve their personal goals because of a little help we gave them is an emotional experience. That is what we are all about at the Assistive Technology Lab, changing lives for the better.”

Learn more about the Assistive Technology Lab at or call 435-797-0699 ext. 1.

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