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Toni Talks about PT Today

The Red Fish

Published August 21, 2012 2:42 PM by Toni Patt

A few weeks ago, I wrote about using the Nintendo Wii and wondering how much help I should give my patients. Since that time, I've settled into helping them to either prevent frustration or teach a new motor program. That creates higher scores while enabling motor learning. The only exception is the red fish.

One of the games we play involves sliding a penguin back and forth across an ice floe to catch fish. The fish jump up and along the ice while the penguin chases them. Points are awarded based on the color of the fish caught. The most points are possible if the penguin jumps up from the ice and catches the red fish overhead.

From the minute we started playing, everyone wanted to know how to get a red fish. As soon as I figured it out, I tried to teach my patients. It quickly became apparent the only way any of them were going to get a red fish is if I helped. So I started helping them get the red fish. I just didn't realize how important getting a red fish was going to become.

I started hearing conversations where they would ask each other, "Did you get a red fish?" Getting the first red fish was cause for celebration. Getting more than one was even better. These are competitive ladies. They're very aware of who has what score. They also cheer for each other.

It turns out it's more important to get the red fish than it is to get a higher score. They cheer and congratulate each other while they play. Everyone is encouraged. They know I'm helping them but unless the penguin is perfectly placed, a red fish isn't possible. So "we" get a red fish whenever possible.

This came home to me a few days ago. I was working with a 93-year-old female and the chance presented itself to get a red fish. So we got it. She was so excited she had to tell everyone. Yep, she got a red fish and that was all that mattered. I've never seen her so animated.

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