Researchers from the UK’s Newcastle University had stated that exposing kids and young adults with autism into immersive VR can help alleviate their fears and phobias. Researchers developed ‘Blue Room’, a virtual environment, which requires no goggles. Here a person can comfortably investigate and navigate through various scenarios working with a therapist using iPad controls but remain in full control of the situation. For many children and their families, anxiety can rule their lives as they try to avoid the situations which can trigger their child’s fears or phobias.
Autism can affect a child’s learning and development, often resulting in impaired social and communication skills and many also have fears or phobias which can be very distressing but are often overlooked. For the study, detailed in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the team involved a small group of children with autism aged 8-14 years.
Half received treatment in the ‘Blue Room’ straight away and half acted as a control group, receiving delayed treatment six months later. People with autism can find imagining a scene difficult which is why the ‘Blue Room’ is so well-received. We are providing the feared situation in a controlled way through VR and we are sitting alongside them to help them learn how to manage their fears.
The results showed that overall 40 percent of children treated showed improvement at two weeks and 45 percent at six months. In a separate study, published in the Autism in Adulthood journal by the same team, the VR treatment was shown to be effective in autistic adults.