Empathy for Autism with Virtual Reality
During World Autism Awareness Week, plenty of schools, families and organisations came together to help raise money and awareness for people with autism. As a company which works with a vast number of schools around the world, giving all students an engaging and exciting learning experience is vitally important. Through working as a primary school teacher, I had the great privilege of working with some incredible students and professionals and was given the opportunity to learn about strategies to help support children with autism in an educational environment. Using some of those ideas, here is a blog post all about how to use ClassVR to support and engage children with ASD.
Avantis Senior Educational Specialist (UK)
Comic Strip Conversations
Comic strip conversations were created by Carol Gray. The idea is that you can quickly create a visual representation of a conversation or situation in order to help understand people’s feelings and intentions. This could easily be translated into a virtual environment using CoSpaces. Characters can be added, using simple drag and drop functionality, and speech/ thought bubbles used to show what they are saying and thinking. This could even be done in such a way that the student would initially just see what was being said and would be asked to predict what they might be thinking, before selecting their chosen character to reveal their thoughts. Being able to immerse a student in these situations makes it seem more real and is likely to have more impact.
School Trip Preparation
There are so many reasons why children look forward to school trips. The chance to experience something new and exciting, getting a taste for learning in a different context. However, for some children, the mere idea of this could cause anxiety and distress. I have often heard that the key to a successful school trip is preparation. Imagine going to the site of your trip and creating a 360 video of your experience. This can then be used time and again, with different students to help prepare them for the trip. Before even getting on the coach, they could familiarise themselves with the sites and sounds of this new environment that they will explore, as many times as they like, until it does not seem so new and scary anymore. This valuable resource can help ease children into new experiences and help alleviate the fear experienced on the build-up to something unfamiliar.
Primary School Teacher, Barry Island Primary School
Dominic Broad, Barry Island Primary School explains:
“Autism is a part of daily life for 2.8 million people. We feel it is our responsibility to ease the transition into school and support children and their families by ensuring our staff are aware of the impact the school environment can have on a child. At Barry Island primary school we use ClassVR to allow our staff the opportunity to experience the challenges a child with autism may face in the classroom.
Having had the opportunity to experience this through using ClassVR we improved empathy and understanding. This training led to policy change and each member of the teaching team working even harder to ensure we have the most positive impact on the children in our care.”
Just as you could create a resource for a school trip, why not use a 360 camera to take a photo or video of the student’s new classroom? They can go on a virtual tour of this new space to help it become familiar to them. They can make decisions beforehand about where they are going to sit and store their belongings so that they are not going into the unknown but can be confident that they know what is going to happen and what it will look like.
Sometimes the classroom environment can become slightly overwhelming for some students. With ClassVR, their favourite VR experience could be pre-loaded onto the device so that any time they need some space or just a few minutes to calm down or re-focus, they can put the headset on (with headphones, if they choose). It can sometimes be challenging to find a quiet space or area in or near the classroom to allow students to manage their own feelings, so ClassVR headsets provide an ideal escape to a safe space that students themselves have chosen.
Empathy for Others
ClassVR enables anyone to experience what it could be like to live with autism. The VR experience takes the viewer through the feeling of anxiety, the sensory overload to help them understand how people with ASD might view different situations and how this can lead to certain behaviours. This makes this resource incredibly useful for giving members of staff working with students with autism an extra insight into the way they view the world but can also offer fellow students a fresh perspective on the world and other people’s perceptions.