Summary of vPAD

The Virtual Reality-based Training Programme (vPAD) project is developed to facilitate students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to acquire skills for the recognition and appropriate response to facial emotional expression, developing self-awareness of emotion and expressing emotions and 3rd party perspective thinking (theory of mind). With the combination and integration of interactive media, virtual reality (VR) and related augmented technologies with an inter-disciplinary (and inter-institutional) team of educational and developmental psychologists, behavioral pediatrician and computer scientists, vPAD aims to develop and strengthen ASD students’ generic skill on complying with basic social rules in common social situations, promoting the generalization of their adopted social skill to new social situations, and also developing a psycho-educational protocol on training social adaptive and emotional control for children with ASD.

Our key objectives include improving ASD students’ emotional control, recognition and appropriate response, develop self-awareness of emotion and expressing emotions, enriching students’ 3rd party perspective thinking (theory of mind), developing students’ generic skill on complying with basic social rules in common social situations and promoting generalization of their adopted social skill to new social situations.

VR Introduction

With technological advancement, effective training can be achieved with the use of advance virtual reality (VR) techniques. Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulation of the real world based on computer graphics and it offers children a user-friendly platform for practicing a variety of skills in a protected, confined, controlled and safe environment. (1) VR environment is validated to be a good tool for teaching, supporting, educating and motivating students with ASD. (2) In brief: ‘children with autism like computers’. (3) The benefits of VR in supporting learning of social situations in children with autism were well-recognized. (4-8) As shown in Kandalaft’s et al. study, a 10-session VR-based social cognitive training improved social skills in 8 high-functioning autistic adults. (9) This study showed the potential of virtual reality technique in applying to children with autism.

  • [1] Bellani, M., et al. Virtual reality in autism: state of the art. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences, 2011, 20.3: 235-238.
  • [2]Barry, Mary; Pitt, Ian. Interaction design: a multidimensional approach for learners with autism. In: Proceedings of the 2006 conference on Interaction design and children. ACM, 2006. p. 33-36.
  • [3] Hardy, C., Ogden, J., Newman, J. & Cooper, S. Autism and ICT: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, 2002
  • [4] Strickland, Dorothy, et al. Brief report: Two case studies using virtual reality as a learning tool for autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1996, 26.6: 651-659.
  • [5] Strickland, Dorothy. Virtual reality for the treatment of autism. Studies in health technology and informatics, 1997, 81-86.
  • [6] Parsons, Sarah; Mitchell, Peter. The potential of virtual reality in social skills training for people with autistic spectrum disorders. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 2002, 46.5: 430-443.
  • [7] Goodwin, Matthew S. Enhancing and accelerating the pace of autism research and treatment. Focus on autism and other developmental disabilities, 2008, 23.2: 125-128.
  • [8] Ehrlich, Justin A.; Miller, James R. A virtual environment for teaching social skills: AViSSS. Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE, 2009, 29.4: 10-16.
  • [9] Kandalaft, Michelle R., et al. Virtual reality social cognition training for young adults with high-functioning autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 2013, 43.1: 34-44.

ASD Introduction

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is one of the most devastating neurodevelopmental disorders which hinder the development of a wide range of learning and life skills. In addition, this disorder affects the children’s families and poses a huge challenge to the social support and education systems. Children with ASD are characterized by a triad of symptoms, namely lack of social reciprocal responsiveness, language and communication deficit and rigid repetitive behavior. (1) In recent decades, “Autism epidemic” is noted worldwide. A recent US reported confirmed cases of ASD have increased 1.7 times that those reported 10 years ago. (2)

  • [1] American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: Author; 1994.
  • [2] NCBDDD. CDC-Data and Statistics, Autism Spectrum Disorder. CDC; 2012.