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.
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.
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)