Occupational Therapy Dexterity/Cognitive Aid




The Need:  Occupational Therapy Device

Occupational therapy is used in treating Traumatic Brain Injury during many phases of recovery and rehabilitation. As the patient's condition improves, occupational therapy helps them regain skills ranging from basic self-care, to complex cognitive skills such as memory and problem solving.


Occupational therapy can be helpful for individuals of all ages. 

Source:  http://www.head-trauma-resource.com/occupational-therapy.htm

 According to numerous studies, many physical therapies incorporate repetition of movement in a patient with neurological delay/damage (head trauma, stroke, nerve damage, etc.) This can stimulate the brain to make new neural connections that will circumvent the damaged part of the brain.

This Instructable documents the design/construction of a table-top Occupational Therapy Device that requires patients to use cognitive/spatial reasoning skills together with the use of the hands/fingers in a repetitive, engaging session.

 The exercise encourages dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and left/right brain interaction.

Things that you and I take for granted require a great deal of effort for someone with a head/spine injury!

The Concept:

The user wears a glove on each hand that has red, blue, and green LED lights on each finger tip.  The gloves are wired to the lap-table which has light-up buttons with the same three colors.  As the exercise is started, a LED on one of the fingertips and a matching color button on the table will illuminate.  The goal is to use that finger to touch the lit button, which turns it out.  As each light is turned out, another combo is illuminated at random.  The exercise can be counted/timed to track progress.

The exercise uses hands, fingers, and cognitive skills to equate the correct color and corresponding muscle reflex.

Hand-eye coordination is the ability of the vision system to coordinate the information received through the eyes to control, guide, and direct the hands in the accomplishment of a given task, such as writing or catching a ball (in this case, identifying matching color sets and directing the correct muscles to actuate)

Reclaiming fine motor skills in an affected hand, after a paralytic stroke, requires determination, repetition, and innovative physical therapy.

The Occupational Therapy Device was constructed using mostly off-the-shelf items!  Let's get started!

Step 1: Obtaining the Parts

Off-the-shelf items were used when possible to make sourcing cheaper/easier.

A laptop lap table was used to house all the components.  This one was purchased for $20 delivered from ebay.

The buttons used on the table are 12 volt arcade style (momentary on)  There are four each of red, green, and blue in the design.  A start button was also added.  The buttons were all purchased on ebay for about $2 each.

The white gloves are the type you might see at a Rave/concert.  They have integrated LED lights on the fingers.  We will bypass their electronics later.  These were purchased from ebay for $12.

The brains of the device:

Arduino UNO: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9950

Mux Shield: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9832

Various other items used in the construction were tools, wire, soldering equipment, etc).

Let's move on to building the table top!

Step 2: Construction of the Table Top

First, find the zippers on the back of the table and open them.  Carefully remove the stuffing (save it for later reassembly).  You may have to remove a staple or two to get to it all.

Once your table is accessible from the back, insert a piece of scrap wood to act as a drill stop.

Mark the face of the table where you want your switches to be.

Using a 15/16" drill, make the holes (make sure you don't hurt the backside of the fabric.

Install the arcade buttons and screw on their locking collars on the back side.

Step 3: Wiring

The Mux Shield can handle up to 48 inputs or outputs. All button inputs and LED outputs are wired into the Mux Shield. When wiring the glove LEDs, the anodes are kept common for each finger and the cathodes are common for each color (red, green, or blue). The anodes are wired into the Mux Shield. The three sets of cathodes are wired into digital i/o pins on the Arduino.

The Arduino switches on and off certain pins on the Mux Shield which are connected to the LEDs in both the gloves and in the buttons. Simultaneously, the Arduino checks the inputs of each button to know when the user presses a button.

During a therapy session, a random number is chosen between 1 and 13 using Arduino’s built-in random() function. The randomly chosen button is then illuminated. The color of each button is stored in a char array, so that the appropriate RGB digital output is selected based on which button is randomly chosen. Lastly, a random finger number is generated, and the appropriate finger is turned on. The program then waits and monitors the button inputs until the user presses the correct button.

Arduino UNO: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9950

Mux Shield: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9832

Once everything was wired, the laptop table's stuffing was reinserted and the table closed up,   The video shows one glove, but the finished piece has both gloves and allows for a more complex therapy session.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable!  If so, rate it a 5 and vote for it in the Humana contest!


Runner Up in the
Humana Health Challenge

Participated in the
Craftsman Tools Contest

Participated in the
Joby Transform It! Challenge

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge



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    10 Discussions


    Question 7 months ago on Step 3

    I really liked your project. If you could explain the code a little bit more or upload some of it. thank you.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Is this board suitable? http://www.ebay.com/itm/SainSmart-UNO-R3-Board-ATmega328P-ATmega16U2-Free-USB-Cable-For-Arduino-/300948763268?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4611f1b284#shpCntId


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is Truly awesome. Could it be possible to add audio or rhythm to it like soothing music or some type of musical or sound/vibrational therapy options?

    Nicely done! I suggest you add to the video what happens when a user presses the wrong button, or uses the wrong finger (unless it is already there and I missed it).

    2 replies

    Thanks! When a user presses the wrong button, a little buzzer gives a short beep and the finger goes red, then it displays the next random pairing. We are still adding features, like scoring, timing, right/wrong, and user history so you can see your results over a length of time.

    I will see if I can get some video of some of that up soon.