High-tech class gets special needs students moving with Microsoft Kinect

For special needs students, opportunities for participating in physical activity are challenging to come by and lessen as they get older. Fortunately, there's an app for that.

Thanks to the integration of new technology in physical education classes, these kids are getting a chance to learn, play and continue to enjoy sports and other physical activities as they age. The Aaron school in New York City focuses on preparing special needs students for college, using Microsoft's Kinect Sports technology to not only get the students active but teach them life skills as well.

“Being a special needs school, they have so many different issues, so many different needs, mostly social, so when someone is afraid of competing in a team sport because the main fear in team sports is letting your teammate down,” John Bracchi, physical education and health teacher at the Aaron School, told FoxNews.com. "This is a way to be successful without letting anyone down."

Kinect is an add-on to the Microsoft Xbox gaming console that uses an array of microphones and video lenses to locate a body in front of it. The system can recognize voice commands and use them to navigate on screen menus. Bracchi said it was an ideal way to get his students moving.

“It’s a failure-free environment that you try, and ten seconds later you get to go again,” Bracchi said.

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This New York City private school uses it to create a physical education program with a video game that doesn't require controllers or any other equipment. Instead it uses the motion-detection device to let users “play” games such as bowling, boxing, soccer, track and field and more.

Bracchi points out that eliminating the controller removes a barrier for some people with mobility and coordination difficulties, and allows the students to learn the rules of the game before transferring them to a real life situation, boosting confidence to “join the team.”

Sarah Tilly, who's son attends the school, says in the past he refused to participate in phys ed. Now he enjoys the gym. “I think because it uses technology, he is much more interested in getting involved,” she told FoxNews.com.

Socially, Bracchi says he has seen his student excel—learning to take turns, encourage and congratulate teammates and opponents, and follow rules in the gym.

The engaging format is structured so that you have to put some effort and a little fitness behind your bat, kick, punch, knee jab and so on in order to win. “You can be Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt for this and it doesn’t matter.”

“The main purpose of phys ed it to keep the kids as active as possible," he added.

"Because once they graduate, it’s their choice to be active.”