Virtual Reality Improves Social Attention in Autistic Kids

Important new research on one of my favorite topics–the power of virtual reality in changing human experience. I’ve excerpted this from Medscape since you have to have an account there to view this(accounts are free though):

Virtual Reality Improves Social Attention in Autistic Kids: May 24, 2011 (Honolulu, Hawaii) — Virtual reality training may help improve complex social attention in school-aged children with higher-functioning autism (HFA), suggests new research presented here at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2011 Annual Meeting.

Head-mounted virtual reality apparatus

In the pilot program, 18 children with HFA and 20 healthy controls wore head-mounted displays showing a virtual classroom with 9 “virtual avatar peers.” As the participants gave short speeches about themselves, each peer was programmed to start fading and become transparent if ignored.

Although results showed no difference in the preadolescent HFA and control children in number of looks to the avatars, the adolescent HFA children made significantly fewer looks than did their age-matched controls, signifying evidence of impairment that emerges later in life.

In addition, “the social attention of all children was malleable,” meaning the looks improved dramatically for all groups during the fade conditioning session, report the investigators.”

3 thoughts on “Virtual Reality Improves Social Attention in Autistic Kids

  1. Thanks for sharing this article. It’s wonderful that virtual reality has the potential to help autistic children… may I ask what do they mean by “social attention?”

    I haven’t really had exposure (yet) to autistic children (or adults for that matter). How do autistic children typically behave with other children and how do you think virtual reality impacts their interactions with other kids?


  2. Somehow I missed this comment Dorlee, I’m sorry!

    People with autism generally have a very difficult time reading social cues and being able to interact effectively in social interactions. I interpret “social attention” to mean their ability to pay attention to and interact appropriately with relevant social cues.


  3. Pingback: Virtual Connections | Svens(k) Idyll

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