The next #OTalk (26/11/13) will be on my dissertation topic, video games in rehabilitation!

This is just a quick update to publicise the upcoming #OTalk, which will be on Games in Rehabilitation. As some of you may remember, I did my OT dissertation on virtual reality video games for rehabilitating children with cerebral palsy, so this is one of those talks I will come out of hiding to participate in.

The talk will be led by Rachel Proffitt (@Games4RehabOT), who has prepared this blog post to introduce the subject.

My dissertation was published back in March 2012, and at the time, my findings were summarised as such:

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common childhood disability, with 1 in 400 babies born each year resulting in a diagnosis. Occupational therapists (OTs) aim to improve daily function while engaging children with CP in typical childhood occupations, such as play. Motion-sensing virtual reality (VR) interventions could allow children with CP to engage in realistic playful environments while practicing repetitive movements and developing functional motor skills. OTs need to embrace technology, but an evidence base is needed before new technology, like VR, can be used in interventions.

The evidence base for motion-sensing VR is emerging, with limited evidence to support the use of VR in practice. However, reviewed articles suggest that VR is possibly on par with current standard treatment for developing upper extremity motor skills. Stronger evidence is needed, but there is potential. No studies have used a VR system that tracks the movements of a handheld remote, only systems that track hands.

Not that you need to get this, but I have made my dissertation available to anyone who wants it at Lulu.com.

I look forward to seeing some of you in my Twitter feed on Tuesday at 8pm, UK time!

Why I love the Journal of Pediatrics.

Reading journal articles can be a long and laborious process sometimes. You get some that are a few pages long, but then you sometimes need to make your way through tens of pages. Yes, you could find and read just the abstracts, but The Journal of Pediatrics has done some of that for you. In each issue, you can find a section in which they’ve selected evidence from a variety of journals, summarised them and then added a commentary to each. Naturally, it’s not just about occupational therapy, but there are definitely relevant articles for paediatric OTs.

For instance, David Ingram and Megan Moreno, two doctors, have summarised the following (open access!) article:

Merry SN, Stasiak K, Shepherd M, Frampton C, Fleming T, Lucassen MF. The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial. BMJ 2012;344:e2598-606.

You can find the summary here:

A computerized self-help intervention is as effective as face-to-face counseling for adolescents seeking help for depression

You can access these without a subscription or payment, which I think is very noble of them.

If you do have access, you can find the latest studies that haven’t even been printed yet in their ‘Articles in the Press’ section online. Here are a few that look quite interesting and relevant to OTs working in paediatrics:

I think it’s great that they publish the latest research online so that doctors and other relevant professionals can have even more up-to-date evidence than they would if they had to wait for the articles to go to print.

How I think touchscreen interfaces could be improved.

A recent article by Alex Williams was posted yesterday on TechCrunch about different expert perspectives on the future of interfaces. Now, I wish I’d read this earlier today so I could do it justice, but I need to squeeze in my NaBloPoMo blog post for today, so this will have to do. It’s a very short article, so you might be interested in giving it a read. I, myself, was most attracted to the article’s photo.

From TechCrunch’s article

The subject of the photo is leaning on a touchscreen device with one hand and drawing with the other. That’s quite clear. The screen must function by only registering input from particular tools, such as the pen they’re holding.

When I first saw it, I jumped to the conclusion that it was a photo of a device programmed to ignore that leaning hand. I was overjoyed, wondering if this was in the near future. Why? Because one of the things that really bugs me with touchscreens is that they register just about any touch. This can be problematic.

For a start, if you want to write or draw on a touchscreen, you need to hover your hand above the screen. This isn’t natural, as people tend to rest the base of their palms on the surface they’re writing on for stability. Some note-taking apps allow you to pull out a palm rest area, but these don’t entirely work, at least not for me. When I write, my hand rests on it’s side at a ~45º angle. The surface is in contact with my hand from the lateral edge of my palm right up along the side to the distal interphalangeal joint of my pinky finger. The rest areas that I’ve encountered pull up, so the apps can ignore contact at the bottom of the screen, but they can’t ignore contact at the side of where I’m writing as well. So if I find it uncomfortable and unnatural to write on a touchscreen, is it right to encourage children to practice on a screen?

In my final placement, we told children to hold down a page with their supporting hand to make sure it stays still. Again, you can’t do this unless you make sure you don’t touch the screen in any way while you write or draw.

These issues will become more important with larger, more immersive screens. People will want a place to rest their hand and steady themselves as they’re writing on a large touchscreen surface. I’m asking developers to think of ways to programme their devices so that they ignore certain types of input, like handprint-shaped input while other input is being received. That, to me, will be a big step forward.