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Keep up to date with all things ACE!

February 27th, 2020 – ACE and Autism Tree Project Foundation set the table for a momentous 2020.

ACE recently participated in Autism Tree Project Foundation’s 12th annual Program Managers meeting, sharing 2019 progress and goals for 2020 of our STEM Pathways initiative. STEM Pathways, which is just one of over 30 free programs offered in cooperation with ATPF, helps increase autistic students’ interest and self-efficacy in STEM. The meeting, held at The Alexandria in Torrey Pines, highlighted the impact that these programs have on children they serve and the community as a whole. From early intervention screenings, to music therapy and beach days ATPF has served tens of thousands of autistic individuals and families since its inception. IMI ACE is excited to continue holding STEM Pathways and related workshops at ATPF and make 2020 a big year of change!

February 24th, 2020 – The inaugural STEM Pathways at Autism Tree Project Foundation

Yesterday, IMI ACE held the inaugural STEM Pathways workshop in collaboration with Autism Tree Project Foundation and the University of San Diego’s STEM Outreach Club. STEM Pathways is a new workshop series at ACE where we engage K-12 students with autism with various science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, hoping to increase their interest and self-efficacy in STEM and pursue educational pathways related to their interests. 

The topic of this past Sunday’s workshop was Biology. So, college students from the University of San Diego’s STEM Outreach Club, and their advising professor, Dr. Laura Rivard, delivered a cow eyeball dissection activity. USD students gained great experience designing and delivering and educational activity, while participants in the workshop got to learn about the structures and functions of the eye. In groups of two, participants got to work with their peers to dissect the eyeball, while being guided by a USD student. 

We all overcame the ‘ick-factor’ fairly quickly and jumped right into the activity. USD students, ATPF volunteers, IMI volunteers and the participants themselves had a tremendous time interacting and learning from one another!

February 11th, 2020 – Download our free air travel resources from the Arc of the United States!

Are you in need of air travel preparation resources? IMI ACE’s virtual reality-based air travel training module is now available for download from the Arc of the United States’ resource page. The Arc of the U.S. hosts Wings for Autism, a program designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with an autism spectrum disorder experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security, and boarding a plane. Since these events are only offered once per year in select cities, our VR-based air travel preparation is a tremendous resource for families who need to practice from the convenience of their home. 

You can also read publications analyzing the feasibility and efficacy of this training module here. We are very excited to partner with Wings for Autism and the Arc of the United States to share this important resource with families in need. We hope that it can alleviate some of the stress associated with air travel and help more families enjoy their vacations and family trips.

January 30th, 2020 – Publication Announcement!

Our most recent research is featured in the Virtual Reality and Autism Special Issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking journal! Read the press release here, and go check out our articles:

  1. Virtual Reality Air Travel Training with Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Preliminary Report
  2. Assessment and Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders with Virtual Reality: A Comprehensive Research Chart.

October 7th, 2019 – Blue Horizons: Helping autistic individual and their families simplify the air travel process.

There is little more rewarding than working with the families we serve. On October Sunday, October 6th IMI’s Autism Center of Excellence shared its virtual reality air travel training tools at JetBlue’s Blue Horizons event at the San Diego International Airport. Organized by the Autism Tree Project, Transportation Security Administration, San Diego Airport Authority and JetBlue community ambassadors, this event helps autistic individuals and their families practice safe air travel by going through the airport check in system, security lines and boarding an airplane.

Long lines, unexpected schedule changes, and crowded airports can exacerbate feelings of stress and anxiety in the already stressful air travel process. While events like Blue Horizons offer a tremendous practice opportunity for families in need, their availability is limited. IMI ACE utilizes VR to deliver accessible, effective trainings anytime, anywhere. We showcased a VR training module that goes through similar air travel steps (check in, security, boarding an airplane), and shared a guided relaxation module. Over 150 families attended the event, stopping by our booth to try out the VR experiences and learn more about participating in our research trials. Families were sent home with our air travel training module and guided relaxation so they can use them to prepare for their next air travel day. For more information on ACE air travel research, go to our research page.

November 20th, 2019 – Grant Award Announcement

For the second year in a row (!) IMI ACE was awarded funding from the Arc Tank 3.0 competition. This competition was created to positively disrupt conventional methods of providing services to people with autism. Over 100 applications were submitted, and only 7 were selected to compete in the Arc Tank 3.0 event held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, MA. With all sorts of great, disruptive ideas, participants pitched their programs and products to a panel of judges including entrepreneurs, journalists, government officials, Harvard professors, and parents of children on the autism spectrum. The winning proposals received awards from the Changing Lives Fund established through a $1 million donation from Steven P. Rosenthal, founder of West Shore, LLC.

ACE Director, Ian Miller shared our newest vision for an inclusive and diverse workforce, called Autism Works. Awarded $45,000, these funds will help IMI ACE create a technical training curriculum that teaches students on the autism spectrum computer programming and virtual reality development skills that culminates in industry level certification and job placement. Funds will also support STEM education workshops, where students on the autism spectrum can participate in fun, informal hands-on activities that increase their interest and self-efficacy in STEM. Ultimately, these workshops are intended to increase autistic individuals’ participation in STEM in high school, college, or in the workforce. 

“The Arc Tank has now awarded $650,000 to proposals that promise to break down barriers for people with disabilities who are too often marginalized, not included as equal participants in everyday life, and prevented from taking advantage of opportunities,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO of Northeast Arc. “Our four new Arc Tank winners will be soon on their way to disrupting the status quo and making significant changes for the better for people with intellectual disabilities and autism.” 

We cannot thank the Northeast Arc, Doug Flutie Foundation and the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation enough for all of their hard work and commitment to making this the best Arc Tank to date!

You can watch a synopsis video here.

September 24th, 2019 – Wrapping up Workshops with Autism Tree Project Foundation.

We just wrapped up our final Virtual Reality Teen Time workshop in collaboration with the Autism Tree Project Foundation! The program is designed for teens and young adults with autism who are able to independently participate in organized social outings throughout the San Diego community. IMI showcased many of its VR applications for education, training, and healthcare throughout these 5 events. Participants were able to learn relaxation breathing techniques, play fun VR games, engage with various subject matters in VR, like astronomy and oceanography, and interact with their peers. IMI ACE is grateful for Autism Tree Project Foundation’s support and looks forward to hosting more events in the future!

June 27th, 2019 – Sharing Research at our Annual Conference

We just returned from CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy & Social Networking Conference (CYPSY24) at Norfolk State University. Jointly organized by Norfolk State University’s Psychology Department and in collaboration with the Interactive Media Institute, this conference is an international networking and sharing platform for researchers, clinicians, policymakers and funding agents to share and discuss advancements in the growing disciplines of CyberPsychology, CyberTherapy, and Social Networking.

ACE Director, Ian Miller shared the most recent results of a research trial utilizing virtual reality to help children and adolescents prepare for the air travel process. To read the proceedings of CYPSY24, click here: http://www.arctt.info

We’re hard at work planning our landmark 25th anniversary conference jointly organized by IMI and the Istituto Auxologico Italiano. For more information on attending CYPSY25, follow this link.