Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Virtual Reality May be a Key Tool in Understanding Autism

New studies indicate that virtual reality technology may be a key tool in understanding autism, as well as helping children with autism learn to navigate difficult social situations.  Traditional tests of interpersonal skills often included dolls acting out social situations, which focuses on observation rather than participation.  Use of a virtual avatar now allows participants to take part in a scenario rather than simply observe one. Practicing social skills with virtual reality can simplify an otherwise complicated interaction, allowing participants to learn skills in a controlled environment.  Interaction with virtual reality is much less stressful than interaction with another human.  A virtual person will not get mad if they are misunderstood, and will not accidentally send mixed signals.  Virtual reality does what it is programmed to do, and thus can be practiced and re-practiced many times until a skill is mastered.  Virtual reality allows participants with autism to develop a familiarity with common nonverbal cues.  It is suspected that the patterns within social interactions are easier for participants with autism to pick up on through virtual reality than they would be in a real-life situation.

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