By Catherine Gray Beuten and Caitlin Jenney
Office of Integrated University Communications
Many children take for granted simple pleasures such as playing video games or pinball. However, the majority of children with severe or multiple disabilities haven’t enjoyed the opportunity to participate in these youth pastimes . . . until now. Assistive Technology Partners (ATP) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine provided hands-on, interactive video gaming fun to 21 children, ages 3-17, with disabilities at the second annual “AbleGames” Saturday, Aug. 21.
“Now that staff, volunteers and returning gamers knew what to expect, there was an even greater element of excitement, anticipation and energy leading up to the event,” explains Christina Perkins, MA CCC-SLP, of UC Denver’s Assistive Technology Partners/SWAAAC. “We incorporated new games, a greater variety of games and more gaming stations.”
Children with significant physical and other disabilities from across Colorado had access to more than 10 adapted stations featuring games on iPad devices, a switch-adapted Guitar Hero, specially engineered seating systems for access to Wii Fit Board games (skiing and soccer) and the Splatball machine. Each gaming participant had his or her own professional coach to maximize the gaming experience and received a CD with the switch adapted computer games, and a trophy. A raffle was held for computers and computer interfaces, and the children were treated to a visit from the Denver Nuggets and cherry snowcones.
Families and supporters had the opportunity to see and experience a number of different technologies designed to promote participation in gaming. “The parents had access to assistive technology professionals and a wide variety of AT adaptations throughout the day,” Perkins explains. “Hopefully, they were able to take away new knowledge, ideas and inspiration for making gaming and play more accessible for their children at home.”
This year’s event had the support of local Eagle Scouts. More than 20 ATP faculty and staff volunteered to work the event as well as volunteers from the University of Colorado School of Physical Therapy, Adams 12 School District, Denver Public Schools, Mountain BOCES, Wyoming schools and State House Rep. Cheri Gerou, District 25.
The joy and energy of the children was palpable, telling an important story that was shared by the families and volunteers. “My involvement in the AbleGames is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job,” Perkins says. “I have no doubt our volunteers feel the same way I do. The smiles of the kids who participate are unforgettable . . . they are the greatest take home prize any one could ever hope for.”
Assistive Technology Partners plans to expand on the games next year and is looking for sponsorship to help make the games sustainable.