Eye Toy and Wii Fit 1

25/04/2008

I was cynical but the Wii fit is a great bit of kit. Like its relatively unsung predecessor, the PS2 Eye Toy, its potential for educational use is the most exciting thing about it. I first saw Eye Toy Play in 2003 on a six-hour stop-over in the otherwise barren airport lounge at Doha. No idea what it was. No instructions, but three bored boys taught my 8-year-old to use it and he taught me. At first simple games like Kung Fu and Wishi Washi seemed a harmless way of passing the time, but observing and playing them myself it seemed to me it was capable of development into a formidable tool for the rehabilitation of stroke victims and for other physiotherapeutic uses. The way the games motivate effort chimes with the kind of approach a Bobath therapist uses.

http://www.bobath.org.uk/TheBobathApproach.html

Briefly, a child with cerebral palsy may have limited movement from an early age. In order to improve, the child must be encouraged and enticed to use the parts of the body affected by the early brain injury. Otherwise, the longer a part of the body goes unstimulated, the more it loses its potential – use it or lose it applies in a major way to very young children with this condition. A child, whose right arm is affected will favour their left arm overmuch, and may ignore the right completely, leaving it to atrophy and greatly magnifying the consequences of the brain injury for the adult they become. Conversely, actively using affected limbs will reap big rewards. Cerebral palsy is a physical disability, not a mental disability and it can be alleviated and overcome by physical activity. Making very small children appreciate that is difficult if not impossible. But it’s in the early months and years that huge gains are possible.

Looked at in this light Wishi Washi and Kung Fu could be the perfect tool for making a child work both sides of the body evenly and spontaneously, as that’s the most efficient way to get the high score. So whether the child appreciates its benefits or not, it’s potentially an excellent way of getting a small child to literally play along with a physiotherapist. Or even possibly without one.

More to come on this subject


My internet bridegroom

21/04/2008

I got married last year to a man I met on the internet in 1999. We’d got engaged years ago but we kept putting the wedding off because we couldn’t work out how to cope with our odd collection of family and friends. It was only the deaths of some of them that made us realise if we left it any longer they might all have gone the same way.

If you meet a man on the internet – and I do strongly urge you to do so – you leap over a lot of the stumbling blocks traditionally dividing couples; race, class, politics and so forth. In our case it left us with an interesting group of putative wedding guests.

Well – more than just ‘interesting’; they were an unruly and ill-matched bunch. Just like the bride and groom. Some of them mad, bad and dangerous. Others curmudgeonly and abrasive, quick to take offence and to dish it out. They came from all classes and temperaments, some of them embracing their fellow man like long-lost social workers, others with more than a touch of the Genghis Khans, so I struggled a bit with how to introduce them to each other.

I’d been to a lot of weddings before and they fell into one of two categories. There are ones where you get told where to sit. This means you have to last a four-hour lunch with people you’d run across a motorway blindfold to get away from. And the ones involving the informal meal you can eat with ‘whoever you like’.  I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re very cool about approaching total strangers but I always end up eating with the one other person in the room I know already because I came with them. I can’t possibly approach tight-knit groups of people I don’t know with my wilting ham roll and chicken drumstick.

So if you’re thinking of getting married soon and in keeping with the internet age, I think you should consider a third way to arrange your guests for maximum social interaction – a speed-dating arrangement. Serve five mini-courses, and rearrange the guests between each course according to your whims – age, height, month of birth …

Families must be deliberately torn apart. Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends need to be separated and  set down next to people they’ve never met, and probably never will again.  You don’t need music or a disco, only odd speeches scattered through a very long lunch. A sort of teenager’s nightmare. This was how we did it and I couldn’t recommend it to you more highly. Shorn of their family armour, people blossom. Teenagers definitely need to be liberated from the disapproving eyes of friends who know them too well, As a result of this rough treatment our guests, even some of the teenagers, blossomed like a thousand flowers, or at least like a hundred really nice, interesting and friendly people. We barely recognised them.

By the end of the night we had to throw them out of the venue, and the next day once-cool teenagers sat on my sofa and asked when we could do it all over again. So  if you’re an internet bride getting married soon and your guests are causing you anxiety, stop sweating over the table plans, just herd them about like cattle between each course and force them to say hello to  strangers.  You can think of it as sort of collaborative thing – a Web 2.0 wedding. And it was so much fun I’m going to do it again next time.