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SpecialEffect News

01 Feb 2017

"I'm looking at gaming in a new light"

Nomi Gallagher, our newest Occupational Therapist, smiles and shakes her head. “There’s so much tech that I wasn’t aware of. I’m kind of relearning everything.”

Nomi, an avid gamer, joined us in November after finishing her OT training in Bournemouth. She heard about the job from a friend and didn’t think twice about applying.

“I remember thinking, ‘A job that combines occupational therapy AND gaming? Wow!’”

“It was in at the deep end though. Within two days I’d been out with the team helping a young person in Staffordshire and attended a fundraiser at a brewery.”

In truth, there’s no other OT job like it, and Nomi’s one of five OTs in our team who are in the vanguard of turning it into a specialism of the profession. Every day is bringing new insights and challenges.

“On the tech side, there’s a huge range of adaptations and I’m learning a crazy amount from my colleagues. Setting up voice recognition scripts for PC software that controls a PlayStation isn’t something they teach you in Uni. And using a soldering iron to modify controllers isn’t something I ever thought I’d be doing.”

All our OTs are working with people to create successful gaming setups every week across the UK, as well as fielding online enquiries from across the world. Their skills are invaluable. There’s no point in the team conjuring up an ingenious modified controller if it can’t be used safely or comfortably, especially for a long gaming session. Then there’s the safe and effective positioning and mounting of the tech. Or other challenges, like integrating everything with wheelchair and environmental controls. All examples where the OT’s abilities shine.

But it’s the subtleties and detail that really count. Fine movements in hands, arms, legs and feet are spotted and harnessed to press switches that are modded to a games controller. Quiet conversations with parents and carers might reveal impending eyesight tests, a wheelchair change or a disruptive house move.

“I’m learning to ask the little questions that might make big differences,” says Nomi. “And building a rapport with the people we’re working with is so important. We’re providing lifelong support so we want communication to be as easy as possible.”

There have already been some highlights in her short time here. “I remember the feeling of achievement the first time I managed to get a complex setup to work,” she says. “And I love the impact our work is having. A teenager came with his family to visit our games room recently. His disabilities meant that he could only watch his family and friends play and he had no expectations of joining in, but we managed to work out a custom setup that got him fully controlling the games he loved. To have that sort of immediate impact - I can still remember the huge smile on his face.”

Below: Soldering on – Nomi modifying a games controller

It helps that Nomi’s a gamer. “Given the chance, I could binge-play Pokemon.” she says, “Or Skyrim. Anything with a dragon.”

Nomi’s enthusiasm is infectious and it’s great to have her with us. Every new team member brings something unique to what we do and Nomi’s no exception.

And, whisper it quietly in case our Fundraiser hears, she quite enjoys the odd skydive.

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