Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Using Virtual Reality To Teach Kids With Autism!

I read something very interesting about a new way to help children with autism learn to cross the street safely.
Most children do learn about safety while they're in the classroom. They may watch videos talking about looking both ways, holding hands with an adult, staying in crosswalks, watching the traffic light for the walk signal, etc. They may read stories about it, color pictures about it, learn rhymes about it, etc. And then, most children are able to take that knowledge, and transfer it to real-world situations. The next time a child is out walking with her mother, she may say, "Remember to look both ways, Mom!" or "Lets stay in the crosswalk!" because she learned that at school.
But kids with autism have trouble taking things they learn in one situation and transferring that knowledge to a different situation. A child with autism may watch the same videos, hear the same stories, learn the same rhymes and color the same worksheets as his peers. He may know that information backwards and forwards in the classroom. But when it comes time to cross an actual street, in the real world, it may not even occur to him to think about what he learned at school!
For kids with autism, it is best to teach them life skills like this in natural settings. Kids with autism tend to learn these things best by actually doing them, repeatedly, until they develop habits. But it isn't always possible, or safe, for schools to take groups of children out to practice crossing streets... especially busy streets!
However, a new study shows that children with autism can learn to cross streets, using virtual reality. In the study, children between the ages of seven and twelve practiced crossing the street in a virtual reality program. that increased in difficulty as the children mastered skills. The children were able to see and hear things the same way they would have in real life. After a month of learning the skill this way, children were then brought to an actual street, and they demonstrated that they could use the knowledge they'd learned through the virtual reality program.
Since this program seems to work to teach kids with autism to cross the street safely, imagine the possibilities for other virtual reality programs that could teach them even more skills!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This program sounds great. Where can we buy it?