Effectiveness of a low-cost virtual reality system for children with developmental delay: A preliminary randomised single-blind controlled trial

Yasser Salem, Stacy Jaffee Gropack, Dale Coffin, Ellen M. Godwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Objectives: Physical and occupational therapists have started to use the Nintendo Wii™ gaming system with adults and children as part of their regular treatment. Despite the growing use of the Wii and trend towards evidence-based practice, limited evidence is available on the effectiveness of virtual reality using the Wii for children with developmental delay. The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a low-cost gaming system for young children with developmental delay. Study design: Single-blind, randomised controlled trial. Participants and setting: Forty children with developmental delay (age 39 to 58. months) who attended a segregated or integrated preschool participated in this study. All children's parents read and signed an informed consent form approved by the institutional review board. Children were assigned at random to an experimental (Wii) group (n=20) or a control group (n=20). Intervention: Two weekly sessions for 10. weeks using Nintendo Wii Sports™ and Nintendo Wii Fit™, including balance, strength training and aerobics games. Main outcome measures: Participants were evaluated 1. week before and 1. week after the programme by a blinded investigator. Primary outcomes were gait speed, timed up and go test, single leg stance test, five-times-sit-to-stand test, timed up and down stairs test, 2-minute walk test and grip strength. The Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) was used to assess gross motor skills. Results: The two groups were homogenous regarding all parameters at baseline. The Wii training was feasible and enjoyable for those in the experimental group. There were no adverse effects or injuries reported over 267 training sessions. Comparison of groups following the intervention indicated that the experimental group showed significant improvements compared with the control group in single leg stance test {mean difference 1.03 [standard deviation (SD) 1.7], 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.2 to 1.9; P=0.017}, right grip strength [mean difference 1.11 (SD 1.84), 95% CI 0.15 to 2.06; P=0.024] and left grip strength [mean difference 0.90 (SD 1.67), 95% CI 0.03 to 1.77; P=0.043]. Although changes in other outcome measures were not significant between the study groups, there were trends towards greater improvements in the experimental group compared with the control group. Conclusion: This study supports use of the Wii as a feasible, safe and potentially effective therapeutic tool to augment the rehabilitation of young children with developmental delay. The potential application of the Wii to increase the intensity of therapy or as a rehabilitation tool in children's homes and rural settings is an area worthy of investigation. The promising results of this study suggest that further studies are warranted to validate the potential benefits of a low-cost commercially available gaming system as a treatment strategy to supplement rehabilitation of children with disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-195
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiotherapy (United Kingdom)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Children with developmental delay
  • Virtual reality
  • Wii gaming system


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