Over the past few decades, researchers have looked into using virtual reality (VR) as a therapy technique for ASD (and other disorders as well). And it’s brought with it good news!
For children, teens, and adults on the spectrum, VR therapy could prove an effective and even enjoyable way to conquer some of the social obstacles that autism presents.
How Does it Work?
Due to the inherent nature of autism, people on the spectrum often struggle in social situations. That’s the case because they may have difficulty detecting emotions and nonverbal cues.
VR helps them develop these skills by allowing them to step into a virtual world — a forgiving world that doesn’t judge them. They can create avatars and place themselves in day-to-day social situations they might face, be it a normal conversation, a job interview, or even a date.
That way, they can practice communicating, reading facial expressions, and picking up on social cues.
That’s one use. But VR can also teach kids important safety skills, like crossing the street without endangering themselves.
Granted, many of the studies that have tested VR as therapy have been small (or have even been case studies). So don’t get too excited just yet. However, clustering those studies together paints a pretty hopeful picture; those who have conducted these studies have found improvements among participants (as was the case in this study, for instance). And since children with autism tend to have a particular affinity toward computer games, that makes this method of therapy all the better. Just look at this cute little boy trying out an Oculus headset for the first time!