Cerebral Palsy (CP) is one of the most frequent causes of disability in childhood, with an incidence of 2 per 1,000 live births. In the EU, there are 1.3 million out of 15 million persons with CP in the world. This neurological disorder affects body movement, balance and posture and often is accompanied by cognitive or sensory impairments like mental retardation, deafness and vision problems. The severity of these problems varies widely, from very mild and subtle to very profound. But what most is affected by this disease, from the youngest age, is the ability to play.

Play is probably the main activity for any child. Through play, children start exploring their world, and put the basis of their own system of values, which will be the cornerstone of their adult life. Play in children with CP becomes difficult due to the disability, and this in turn can affect child’s self-esteem1. In addition, the sensory and motor problems experienced by children with CP affect how they interact with their surroundings, including the environment and other people. Youth affected by CP have fewer opportunities to participate in traditional games and exercises such as playing basketball, riding a bike or playing ball with their friends. The lack of exercise contributes to a cycle of deconditioning as youth with CP grow into adulthood, resulting in deteriorating physical functions, which will also negatively impact their opportunities for social interaction. Youth with CP have already been reported2 to have fewer social experiences with peers than youth without abilities, due to the special requirements for their access and transportation.

In this context, video games, and in particular exergames, represent a very promising way to enable youths with CP to perform the exercise they need to break the cycle of deconditioning, while allowing them to socialize with others in fun ways from the comfort of their homes. Exergames are a combination of exercise (or exertion) and video games. In particular, we refer to digital games that require actions of large body parts (like trunk or upper or lower extremity, as compared with finger or hand movements in non-exergames) or the whole body to control gameplay. Reviews of exergames indicate that they have positive effects both on motivation for active participation in rehabilitation and on impaired functions. However, the design of these games can be challenging, if our goal is to help them socialize with others. First of all, limitations in physical abilities of youth with CP make it difficult for them to play many of the existing exergames. Second of all, there are challenges to social play such as establishing player groups and playing with players with different abilities that need special consideration.
Looking at these problems, and taking into account our extensive expertise in the field, we believe we can help.

eu_logo This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement NÂș 732363