How is VR Helping Autism?
Virtual reality technology is changing the world as we know it. More importantly, VR is changing what we know about the autistic brain, but is also helping those with autism spectrum disorder. While we may view virtual reality technology as somewhat of a new fine, “Autism therapists and researchers started to use VR in the mid-1990s” (Rogers, 2019). This means VR has been used to help autistic individuals for about 25 years now. Virtual reality has been used to create environments for autistic individuals to help when encountering stressful scenarios. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, often times autistic individuals, especially children, have lots of anxiety in terms of social setting and learning, that they are not able to express to their full extent. Virtual reality allows them to encounter such settings in a controlled, safe, and calm environment to allow these people to cope better with stress and anxiety. Virtual reality has been creating virtual scenarios such as job interviews, social cognition training, economical situations, phobias, and much more, to help such individuals when scenarios are not as controlled. In addition, “VR has also been used to help prepare autistic children for public speaking. Using an audience of avatars which faded away if eye contact wasn’t made by the speaker, children were encouraged to look around the room, rather than just ahead” (Rogers, 2019).
To tie this into our last blog, can you think of all the ways virtual reality can assist with learning? VR can help children who are visual learners, be in a more controlled zone and controlled mindset when using the technology to learn concepts taught at school. It could even be used to facilitate visually guided meditations in between learning sessions to calm the autistic child’s stress and keep they from feeling overwhelmed. Many schools, to this day, have had to switch to remote learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As more variants of this disease arise, schools will need to have ongoing remote and virtual scenarios for learning. From my own experience of teaching autistic children, the switch to remote learning has been extremely difficult. While there is less anxiety about being at home in a safe zone, the material becomes that much harder for them to comprehend as they do not have all their resources at home and parents may not be able to provide proper educational needs. This is where VR technology could come into play in order to visually stimulate and help the comprehension of these autistic children. In my own teaching, I often use videos for them to grasp concepts, and therefore can only imagine how helpful VR technology embedded to learn educational concepts can be.
VR technology has also made it so we are able to understand autistic individuals, and their minds, better. It has allowed to watch and see how children and adults with autism react in such controlled scenarios when using a VR device. While there are a million things once can do with virtual reality technology, I truly believe this is where we should be laying our interests. The future of technology is great, but that of autistic individuals is even better.
Hollow, M. C. (2019, June 19). How VR is helping autistic kids make sense of the world. Folks. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://folks.pillpack.com/how-vr-is-helping-autistic-kids-make-sense-of-the-world/.
Rogers, S. (2019, April 3). How virtual reality can help those with autism. Forbes. Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2019/04/03/how-virtual-reality-can-help-those-with-autism/?sh=692d03f7198e.
Treating the phobias of individuals with autism with VR. Autism Research Institute. (2019, September 27). Retrieved December 3, 2021, from https://www.autism.org/virtual_reality_overcoming_phobias/.
— Jayvanti Vanmanthai