VR therapy being used to help children with Autism

  • A pioneering new Virtual Reality technique that doesn't use a headset is showing promise in trials to help children with Autism overcome phobias associated with their condition.

    While much of the money behind virtual reality has come from the gaming and entertainment sectors, it's also been used effectively in in a wide range of applications in fields from education and manufacturing to healthcare. TechWorld reports that the technology is now being used to help children with autism as part of a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme.

    CBT has proven extremely effective in helping people with a wide range of mental and emotional issues, from anxiety and depression to serious phobias, but it uses a set of imagination techniques to achieve those results. People with autism often suffer from phobias of certain people and places, and many can't engage well with the imagination techniques of CBT.

    A new paper published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders documents the results of new research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) into the use of VR to complement therapy. The VR experience was delivered using a new technique without the need for a restrictive headset that some patients wouldn't be comfortable with, and is conducted in a special area called The Blue Room.

    Of the nine children involved in the trial, eight showed improvement in their ability to tackle their phobia in real life following the study, and a second visit 12 months later found that the improvements were maintained long-term. This new technique could become the basis for further developmental therapies to help those on the autistic spectrum overcome phobias and improve their lives.

    Source: TechWorld, Journal paper

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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