University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Virtual Sensorimotor balance training for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Feasibility Study


McCoy, SW, Jirikowic, T, Hsu, LY, Price, R, Dellon, B, Kartin, D



Publication Info:

Physical Therapy, Epub ahead of print 06/25/2015:


BACKGROUND: Diminished sensory adaptation has been associated with poor balance control for children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). A virtual reality system, Sensorimotor Training to Affect Balance, Engagement and Learning (STABEL), was developed to train sensory control for balance.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to examine the STABEL system in children with FASD and children with typical development (TD) to (1) determine the feasibility of the STABEL system and (2) explore the immediate effects of the STABEL system on sensory attention and postural control.
DESIGN: This is a technical report with observational study data.
METHODS: Eleven children with FASD and 11 children with TD, aged 8 to 16 years, completed 30 minutes of STABEL training. The children answered questions about their experience using STABEL. Sensory attention and postural control were measured pre- and post-STABEL training with the Multimodal Balance Entrainment Response system and compared using repeated-measures analysis of variance.
RESULTS: All children engaged in game play and tolerated controlled sensory input during the STABEL protocol. Immediate effects post-STABEL training in both groups were increased postural sway velocity and some changes in entrainment gain. Children with FASD showed higher entrainment gain to vestibular stimuli. There were no significant changes in sensory attention fractions.
LIMITATIONS: The small sample size, dose of STABEL training, and exploratory statistical analyses are study limitations, but findings warrant larger systematic study to examine therapeutic effects.
CONCLUSIONS: Children completed the training protocol, demonstrating the feasibility of the STABEL system. Differences in postural sway velocity post-STABEL training may have been affected by fatigue, warranting further investigation. Limited immediate effects suggest more practice is needed to affect sensory attention; however, entrainment gain changes suggest the STABEL system provoked vestibular responses during balance practice.

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