Autism and Virtual Reality

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Hope this article reaches as many parents who have children with autism and also to parents who don’t. It is to make one aware that we now have resources to help our kids feel included in society.

It has been a while since I have known of Autism as a disorder. A couple of my friends have children who are Autistic. I have observed over the years their pain and their struggles. It certainly has not been an easy journey for them. Bringing up a child who is autistic can be challenging for parents, as the child can demonstrate unusual behaviors in public that others cannot understand. There are groups where the parents discuss their issues, their pains, and also their joys. They act as a support system for one another. Although it is an activity that sustains them, it can also be heart wrenching and depressing. However, there are parents who are not even aware that their child could be autistic. This is a heart wrenching situation. Sometimes there are others who find it difficult to accept that their child is autistic.

Sunderjee Institutions in Pune offering education to kids who are Autistic

Parents of children with Autism go through varied emotions and most of them are emotions that can leave them feeling stressed. Feeling guilty, confused, angry, and depressed is a very natural phenomenon for a parent who has a child affected with Autism. Especially if they feel they are responsible for the child’s condition. However, the parents should stop blaming themselves and look at the situation with a brighter perspective. The parent is always concerned of how the child will cope tomorrow. Many is the time others who are not aware of this disorder judge the parents unfairly and that can be very distressing. It frustrates the parent making them angry at times. However an autistic child can live a happy fulfilled life when detected in time and they go through correct therapy and guidance.

Autism…learning under guidance

Autism in brief

So let me in brief explain Autism. Of course a lot of the matter is after having read and spoken to parents and people who are working on this extensively. A lot of matter is on the net, then who will go and read on Autism unless it really interests them or they have a child or a relative who has the disorder. I decided to write on it in the hope of making others aware of what Autism is hoping it could help someone somewhere.

Autism affects the individual in different ways. ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder affects 1 in 59 children in the USA (Centers for Disease Control). According to the  Indian Scale Assessment of Autism, 2 million children are affected with Autism in India (2017)

There is a broad range of conditions that are challenging that an autistic child faces; challenges in behavior, social skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as sensory and attention issues. Autism has many subtypes and is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. A child with Autism has a set of strengths and challenges. They also have their own identities and preferences like anyone else. It becomes necessary that others also learn about autism because this will help these children and adults feel included in society.

“Almost everyone has heard of Autism now but we continue to hear from autistic people and their families who miss out on an education, struggle to find work or become extremely isolated – often due to misunderstandings about autism and what it’s like to be autistic. Better understanding of autism could transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic people.”  Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society

Today therapists, counselors, teachers, and parents are using Virtual Reality to help kids with Autism, communicate better with the outside world. It will also help those who are not autistic to understand Autism better.

Virtual Reality was started in the 1990’s by Autism researchers and therapists.

‘The technology to create virtual environments to help autistic people prepare for encounters or situations that could be stressful. For example, the Center for BrainHealth and the Child Study Center at Yale University’s School of Medicine collaborated to help young adults with ASD achieve economic and social independence with the help of VR. Carly McCullar, who has ASD, went through the Center’s social cognition training during her senior year. The training taught her to handle situations such as job interviews, a problem with a neighbor and even dating.’ (Forbes…how virtual reality helps those with autism)

How Virtual Reality can reduce Fears and Phobias in Autism

Virtual Reality has helped Autistic children in Public Speaking and alleviating their phobias and fears.

‘Phobias that often impact autistic children have also been tackled with VR. These phobias can include, but are not limited to: a fear of public transport, classrooms, balloons, and animals. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to combat the effects of these phobias but to fully benefit from CBT, visualization and imagination should be used: these activities can be a struggle for those with autism.’ (Forbes…how virtual reality helps autism)

Virtual Reality today is a tool for recreational gaming. However, its benefits are proving to be very valuable for people with mental health conditions besides Autism; conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and even schizophrenia.

Some Signs to look out for that can help detect Autism: (Taken from the net and after speaking to a few therapists)

Social communication challenges

Children and adults with Autism have difficulty with verbal and non-verbal communication. For example, they may not understand or appropriately use:

  • Spoken language (around a third of people with autism are nonverbal)
  • Gestures
  • Eye contact
  • Facial expressions
  • Tone of voice
  • Expressions not meant to be taken literally

Additional social challenges can include difficulty with:

  • Recognizing emotions and intentions in others
  • Recognizing one’s own emotions
  • Expressing emotions
  • Seeking emotional comfort from others
  • Feeling overwhelmed in social situations
  • Taking turns in conversation
  • Gauging personal space (appropriate distance between people)

Restricted and repetitive behaviors

Restricted and repetitive behaviors vary greatly across the Autism spectrum. They can include:

  • Repetitive body movements (e.g. rocking, flapping, spinning, running back and forth)
  • Repetitive motions with objects (e.g. spinning wheels, shaking sticks, flipping levers)
  • Staring at lights or spinning objects
  • Ritualistic behaviors (e.g. lining up objects, repeatedly touching objects in a set order)
  • Narrow or extreme interests in specific topics
  • Need for unvarying routine/resistance to change (e.g. same daily schedule, meal menu, clothes, route to school)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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