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The potential of virtual reality in social skills training for people with autistic spectrum disorders

By S. Parsons and P. Mitchell

Abstract

Background: People with autism experience profound and pervasive difficulties in the social domain. Attempts to teach social behaviours tend to adopt either a behavioural or a ‘theory of mind’ (ToM) approach. The beneficial aspects and limitations of both paradigms are summarized before an examination of how virtual reality technology may offer a way to combine the strengths from both approaches.<br/><br/>Methods: This is not an exhaustive review of the literature; rather, the papers are chosen as representative of the current understanding within each broad topic. Web of Science ISI, EMBASE and PsycInfo were searched for relevant articles.<br/><br/>Results: Behavioural and ToM approaches to social skills training achieve some success in improving specific skills or understanding. However, the failure to generalize learned behaviours to novel environments, and the unwieldy nature of some behavioural methodologies, means that there is a need for a training package that is easy to administer and successful in promoting learning across contexts.<br/><br/>Conclusions: Virtual reality technology may be an ideal tool for allowing participants to practise behaviours in role-play situations, whilst also providing a safe environment for rule learning and repetition of tasks. Role-play within virtual environments could promote the mental simulation of social events, potentially allowing a greater insight into minds. Practice of behaviours, both within and across contexts, could also encourage a more flexible approach to social problem solving. Virtual environments offer a new and exciting perspective on social skills training for people with autistic spectrum disorders.<br/><br/

Topics: BF, LC, QA76
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:171415
Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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