The Use of Exergaming with Developmentally Disabled Students

By Cai, Sean X.; Kornspan, Alan S. | Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators, January-February 2012 | Go to article overview

The Use of Exergaming with Developmentally Disabled Students


Cai, Sean X., Kornspan, Alan S., Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators


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The physical activity patterns of students with disabilities have been studied in order to understand how much moderate and vigorous daily physical exercise is obtained. For example, Pan (2008) found that children with autism spectrum disorders were not as physically active during recess sessions. Similarly, literature suggests that students with disabilities are less physically active as compared to children without disabilities. As a result of being less physically active, these students' fitness levels appear to be much lower than the general population (Pitetti & Campbell, 1991; Pitetti, Rimmer, & Fernhall, 1993). Consequently, these students have a higher body fat percentage (Rimmer, Braddock, & Fujiura, 1993; Rubin, Rimmer, Chicoine, Braddock, & McGuire, 1998). Therefore, one strategy that may be effective to increase these students' physical activity is through the use of exergaming and interactive video games.

In response to this issue, the purpose of this article is to explain the benefits of exergaming, describe specifically how Nintendo Wii Tennis can been used for students with disabilities, and how these interactive video games could be implemented in an adapted physical education setting.

Recent Research

Recently, physical education researchers and practitioners have begun to investigate the use of interactive video game technology in physical education and the adapted physical education classroom. It appears that the use of interactive video games may be an important way to increase the physical activity of students with disabilities. A main reason that interactive games may be helpful is that the various aspects of the disability may make participation in traditional sports and physical activities difficult (Rosser-Sandt & Frey, 2005), but these interactive video games make participation possible. Furthermore, Sinclair, Hingston, and Masek (2007) analyzed the effects of the use of interactive video games on providing physical and health benefits. They concluded that using interactive video games helped students become more physically active.

More specifically, practitioners and researchers have recently proposed the idea that the Nintendo Wii can aid in the learning and health of students with disabilities (Bailey & Pearson, 2007; Fortin, 2008). Bailey and Pearson suggested using the gaming console with groups of individuals with various disabilities to determine if it can aid as a motivational and learning tool.

One benefit of exergaming is that it provides physical activity. It also allows for the development of psychomotor skills and helps students obtain a cognitive understanding of different sports or activities. Take Nintendo Wii Tennis for instance. In the development of psychomotor skills, students need to visually perceive the ball coming toward them and then decide whether to hit a forehand or backhand. This game requires the player to perform the actual movement in a virtual environment. The student has to understand the game of tennis, as well as be able to perform the simulated skills in order to be successful. Not only are motor skills required, but the child is also improving their tactical understanding of the sport of tennis.

Instructional Strategies

Through observations and working with students in various settings, instructional guidelines have been developed for physical educators to consider as they use Nintendo Wii Tennis as an instructional activity for students with disabilities. First, educators should use basic short introductions to the Nintendo Wii system to aid students in an understanding of what equipment is involved and what the functions of the equipment are. Students generally have short attention spans, and as a result, educators should switch to other activities after playing one or two games. For example, other stations could be created that include tennis skills instruction, a picture series that illustrates the teaching of tennis skills, and a station in which the student can play with tennis balls.

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