What is virtual reality (VR) technology?
VR technology represents a simulation of real world environments based on computer graphics and it encompasses a variety of software and hardware:
– Head-mounted displays
– Virtual environment simulations
– Collaborative virtual environments
– Immersive virtual environments
– Virtual worlds
Why would VR be useful in treatment and education of autistic people?
Autistic children often do not learn social skills or pick up on social cues at the same pace as their peers. VR can be used to create safe and controlled training environments in which those skills can be cultivated. These environments allow educators, therapists and service providers to offer a safe, repeatable and diversifiable platform which can benefit the learning of autistic people .
Limitations of VR usage
Cost: A VR headset will usually cost a few hundred dollars with mobile headset with a strap being the cheapest alternative. Nevertheless, the cost for VR equipment is decreasing significantly, making it less cost-prohibitive for use within clinical and educational research and practice .
Glitches: Technical problems might reduce the feeling of immersion, but VR technology is constantly evolving and addressing those shortcomes.
Training: Additional training is required for providers to be able to incorporate proficiently and skillfully the VR programs in the treatment. It is important to highlight though that technology delivers the active instruction, thus allowing practitioners to engage in other work-related tasks or work with more individuals at the same time .
Generalisability: Despite the positive potential of VR technology for autistic people, research is usually conducted with very small groups, which means the findings cannot not be generalised .
Research suggests moderate evidence about the effectiveness of VR-based treatments in autism . It has been found particularly effective in teaching complex social skills such as pretend play , understanding emotions , and social norms . VR can add many advantages to the treatment, but future studies need to develop consistent validations to state that VR can present an effective alternative to traditional treatments.
Blue Room NHS treatment
There is a scientific VR programme now available as NHS treatment for families throughout the UK. One can look into obtaining a referral to this NHS service here: https://www.ntw.nhs.uk/resource-library/complex-neuro-developmental-service-cnds/
Interview with Dr Yurgos Politis about Virtual Reality and inclusion in treatment and education for autistic people.
Interview with Dr. Joan Mora Guiard about embodied interaction.
BBC’s feature about how technology (including VR) can assist autistic people with anxiety.
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