CardioWall – Street’s ahead with engaging, energetic tech

A CardioWall was introduced to the people we support at Street in Somerset recently, enabling them to interact with both movement and reaction, whatever the age of the user, in groups or individually.

The wall, which works with functions such as multi-coloured LED pods, a scoreboard, built-in sound effects and voice commands, is proving to provide many benefits.

Here are Ian Hull, Locality Manager at Outreach, and Luke Joy-Smith, Project Director, talking a bit more about what the CardioWall can do and has done at Street for its users.

Could you describe how users engage with a CardioWall?

Users will do all the wall activities either as individuals or, as groups, they do them as a competition. Those are generally the main ways they use it, to fill maybe gaps in their daily activities. Or if a person we support is associated with distress, and they just wish to just get that distress out on something, the CardioWall is a good tool for that.

There are also programs on it that can be used for other skills, such as numerical, but [as the wall has been recently installed] we haven’t seen the full benefits of that yet. There are remembering games, such as where were the matching cards and also follow the patterns games, i.e. 12345 assignments, so the wall has the potential to be used in many different ways. But I think it’s the exploration of it that appeals to the users: it really does ally itself to be immediately adapted for them.

Ian Hull, Locality Manager at Outreach

Some people we support where we use intensive interaction (which is largely based on following the lead of the person we support)… so if someone makes a sound or someone makes a movement, then you might follow it in order to encourage someone to understand, “Actually I do this thing and my form of communication has been followed”. This would do that same thing. This tool would follow that same purpose that it could allow someone to do a thing as a form of communication.

So, for example, hit the wall once if you if you want ‘Yes’; hit the wall twice, or hit the red line…You could use it in that way. I guess we’ve never really had it long enough or played with it enough to do that, but it certainly has that factor that I think could achieve lots of outcomes and goals for many people we support in different ways.

Luke Joy-Smith, Project Director

From what has been used with the CardioWall so far, what type of feedback have users and support work been giving, if any?

I think all the support workers like it. It’s been good because it is something that is only a minute long; you can make it short, you can make it long. If somebody really wants to really want to get into exercise and increasing their heart rate, then they’re able to do that for the 20 minutes, if that’s what they choose. But it can also be just that one minute. The feedback we’re getting is it has great flexibility and it’s very engaging and easy to use, and for people with learning disabilities, that’s really important.

It’s also ok that some colleagues use this, between themselves as well as supporting someone, so it might be at the beginning of a team meeting or whatever. There’s something in all of this that makes it a leveller – it doesn’t really matter who you are and what your background or your ability, there’s a level to this in terms of understanding what I need to do.

Luke Joy-Smith

Definitely. So, one of the ways that some of the people that may not want to wish to engage with doing a bit of activity is that two members of staff may have a little bit of a competition between themselves, while the person we’re supporting is watching. And usually by the time the second person’s had to go, they’re going, “Get out of the way, I want to have a go. I want to do this; I can do better than that”. And nine times out of ten they usually can.

I think the biggest challenge we’ve had with it so far is somebody remembering to turn it on in the morning. Because if it if it’s not on, and the lights aren’t flashing, then the people we support don’t necessarily go off to use it. But if it’s turned on…then they’re there. Now, I think that says a lot about a piece of equipment: if that’s the most challenging thing for a piece of equipment, then it’s really good. It’s not like a Wii where you’ve got to stand there and make sure people have got it all set up; it just goes. It might be used [for eight hours a day], but it’s just on and it’s there. It’s not thrown in people’s faces – some people we try to encourage, and some people with more complex needs, we try to encourage them to have a go. And, we can actually see the progression in their understanding about, maybe, what we’re encouraging them to do as time goes on through the cause and effect.

Ian Hull

Since its installation, have you seen any improvements in behaviours or engagement among the people we support?

There’s one gentleman we support who has gone from just wanting to give a little gentle tap on one of one of the closest buttons to now, where he will probably hit it so the light will go away. And it’s moving around to the ones that he can reach to press them when the lights go off. So that that does work for him.

And there are a couple of other people where it has taken them from not wanting to do anything particularly anything energetic to actually having a go and doing energetic exercise, as long as we don’t say, “Do you want to go and do some exercise?” We’re going to say, “Shall we go and have a go? You come and join me”.

Ian Hull

Would you recommend these types of tech around the organisation?

Yeah, I could see the CardioWall being a benefit to so many different people. I think there is something about the size of it that is a challenge. So, if you’ve got a small home or for example, it probably would be hard to fit in. If you have a sensory room it might work, or if you had a larger dining room or conservatory or something like that, it might be something in that respect, and there’s a cost behind it.

But I think what we found, when you look at it online, and certainly when I was first shown, is that I’m not really sure of this. I don’t think it’s really what you want. It’s one of those things that you have to go and touch and the minute you touch it, you get it.

And so what I really recommend is people come in, and it’s in it’s in a community venue so it isn’t in someone’s home, people come and use it. There is something about the fact that people should just come and see it. And there will probably be 90% or 99% of people that would say, “I get it. I get what this thing is about”.

Luke Joy-Smith

Absolutely, and I echo what Luke says: if you come and see it and touch it, and have a go, you get it. Putting it into words, it’s really difficult. I still struggle with when people say, “Well, what is it?” And you go, “It’s a Whack a Mole on a wall”. Which sounds pretty terrible, really, considering the cost. But actually, when you use it, yes, you get it and you can see and understand what it can bring.

Ian Hull