Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a serious neurological disorder and a life-long diagnosis. According to recent estimates, one in 45 children in the United States are diagnosed with ASD and no two people have the same symptoms.
With the help of virtual reality researchers are exploring alternative solutions. Recent experiences show that virtual reality can be a motivating platform to safely practice social skills for children with ASD. It is also seen as an effective method to build empathy and help improve the public’s understanding of the condition.
1- Immersive autism therapy
A Washington based startup Floreo is developing Virtual Reality scenarios for children on the autism spectrum. Through Floreo’s experiences, children can learn and practice skills such as pointing or making eye contact. Parents can also follow along and interact with the program by using a linked tablet.
2 - Supporting teenagers with autism learn how to drive
Vanderbilt University researchers and engineers developed a special adaptive virtual-reality driving experience for individuals with ASD. Named as “Vanderbilt VR Adaptive Driving Intervention Architecture” (VADIA) the experience teaches ASD adolescents the basic rules of the road, and gathers information about the unique ways they react to driving situations.
VADIA can alter driving scenarios with varying degrees of difficulty to provide users with the training they need while keeping them engaged in the process. It also helps screen individuals whose deficits are too severe to drive safely.
3 - Helping children on Autism spectrum improve social skills
A virtual reality program at the University of Texas at Dallas helps teens develop their social skills despite such challenges as ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. Findings published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviorreveal that virtual reality can improve social cognitive skills in children with ASD and provides an interactive, stimulating, safe and socially non-threatening approach.
4 - Inspiring kids with autism
In July 2016, Microsoft UK hosted a workshop that used virtual reality to help kids with autism prepare to enter work environments. The company invited more than 20 youngsters between the ages of seven and 19 to a workshop where they were able to immerse themselves in VR and build skills to reduce their chances of becoming one of the 85% of people affected by autism who are not in full-time employment.
5 - Understanding autism with virtual reality
In order to give an insight into what it’s like to be autistic, the U.K.’s National Autistic Society launched a 360-degree virtual reality video. The video is based on an autistic boy’s real experience in a shopping mall, giving a flavor of how an everyday setting can be overwhelming to an autistic person. The experience can be downloaded as an app from App Store or Google Play Store.