On Wednesday, I met with Dr. Leah Light of the South Florida Brainchild Institute. Dr. Light and her staff focus on improving brain functions and quality of life for children and adults with deficits ranging from early childhood developmental delays to decreased mental functioning associated with the aging process.
I originally heard about Dr. Light from the Head of The Cushman School (where this game was originally designed), and I told Dr. Light about the game. She was fascinated by the game and its potential to help her patients, and wanted to meet with me.
After trying to set up a meeting for three months, we finally met on Wednesday. She explained why blind people score higher in Blindfold Racer than sighted people (blind people’s auditory cortex is more developed than sighted people), and how critical the auditory system is to reading comprehension. She also explained the linkage between visual input and auditory input, and how some children have learning problems when the two systems don’t connect properly.
There are many computer-based programs to help children improve their auditory attention pathways, but most kids get bored with them after a little while. Dr. Light thought combining some of the program’s concepts with the fun aspects of Blindfold Racer would make the therapy more fun. The more fun a kid has, the longer he plays. The longer he plays, the more the brain begins to re-wire itself.
For example, some children, such as those with mild autism, respond to visual stimulation and almost ignore auditory signals. They need to integrate both signals and relate the visual and auditory signals to each other; in other words help them balance left & right brain activities.
Dr. Light suggested we develop a variant of this game where you can actually see the road and the animals on the road. The child would play the game, probably by looking at the screen, and ignoring the auditory cues. Then the screen gets slightly darker, the child plays again, and but starts listening as well as looking. Then the screen gets even darker, and the child get barely see the road and the animals, and starts to rely on listening. Finally the screen is completely dark, and the child must complete the level using only their ears.
We will start prototyping this game in about a month. We will let the parent or therapist configure how quickly the screen gets darker and what the rules are to move from level to level.
Once that’s done, Dr. Light and I will look at other games that help build auditory processing. I’ve noticed that what blind children & adults find interesting in games have the same underlying principals as auditory therapies used with sighted children.