Using Virtual Reality to Teach Crucial Community Safety Skills


As youth on the autism spectrum transition to adulthood and gain increasing independence, their families often fret over their safety and their ability to respond in critical situations. Research at CAR has recently begun to delve into the world of virtual reality, with CAR scientists  Joseph McCleery, PhD, and  Julia Parish-Morris, PhDpartnering with tech startup Floreo, Inc., to test virtual reality based interventions to build social and community safety skills in adolescents and adults with ASD.  Unlike other interventions, virtual reality gives children the opportunity to learn and build skills in close-to-real-life experiences which may not otherwise be available.

"Floreo’s immersive virtual reality platform is unique in that it allows a parent or therapist to directly observe the learner’s experience, and to provide interactive guidance and feedback in real time,” said Dr. McCleery. “We see significant potential for this intervention to be developed and applied in ways that have meaningful, positive impacts on real-world social, adaptive, and other important skills for individuals with ASD." “We know that practicing social interactions and a range of appropriate responses is an important support for people with ASD, who can become overwhelmed and freeze up more easily in unfamiliar social situations,” explained Dr. Parish-Morris. “Virtual reality technology gives us a unique and important opportunity to help individuals practice critical interactions that will help them stay safe and increase their ability to live independently in their communities.”

The Floreo study will be seeking participants aged 12+ diagnosed with ASD, beginning in October. Those interested in participating can visit  the Center for Autism Research’s Enrollment page for more information or download the study’s flyer