How virtual reality helps children with autism understand the real world

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HERMITAGE, England (Reuters) – A specialized care center in England is using virtual reality (VR) headsets and data mining to help children with autism acclimatize to the scenarios they are likely to find outside of school.

FILE PHOTO: People wear virtual reality glasses in a new permanent exhibition of Timeride over the divided city in Berlin, Germany, on August 22, 2019. REUTERS / Hannibal Hanschke

Prior’s Court staff, located in Berkshire, southern England, expect the high-tech approach to help students adapt to the real world and enjoy new experiences such as virtual skiing or deep-sea diving.

People with autism may find unknown situations stressful.

Virtual reality scenarios present children with situations such as visiting a mall or getting on a plane without abandoning the comfort and safety of their class.

“Our young people have difficulties with sensory problems, so it can be overwhelming to go to crowded places or make the transition to a new place,” Nuno Guerreiro, a computer professor at Prior’s Court School, told Reuters.

“They like what is familiar to them, they like their routine. Therefore, virtual reality sets allow them to experience new realities and probably help them make the transition when they have to face a new place. ”

The Prior Court serves around 95 youth at the severe end of the autism spectrum, including many who are not verbal and cannot communicate their needs.

The charity also hopes that Big Data can help. They are testing a new data collection system, called Prior Insight, that will collect a detailed picture of each young person’s day, including what they have eaten, how much exercise they have done and how they are behaving.

“That information analyzes things as incidents; seizure activity, food and beverage supplies, toilet supplies, personal care, any activity they have done and any sleep data, “said project leader Elaine Hudgell.

“We hope not only to increase our knowledge and awareness about the world of young people with autism in the Prior Court, but also to be able to share it with the world of autism on time,” Hudgell added.

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