Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an especially difficult disorder to treat because symptoms manifest differently in each individual. The core diagnostic criteria are deficits in social communication and interaction and repetitive behavior patterns, interests and activities. IMI recognizes that virtual reality can be utilized in many ways to attempt to improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with autism.
In 2019, IMI formed the Autism Center of Excellence (ACE) to research VR-based tools to teach functional communication and adaptive daily skills to autistic children, adolescents and young adults. IMI ACE is actively applying for grants to study the use of virtual reality to teach children with autism social communication skills and activities of daily living.
By creating virtual worlds including classrooms, playgrounds, public transportation, air travel and other environments, IMI hopes to develop protocols for improving the quality of life for these children. By delivering evidence-based communication intervention methods, IMI is teaching functional communication strategies in immersive environments. This training tool enhances the generalization of skills from clinical and classroom settings to real world settings. Another advantage of virtual reality is that it can also be used to filter out stimuli, which aids in focusing attention in patients with autism and can deliver targeted interventions. The therapist can adjust the level of stimuli in the environment according to each patient, adding in more distractions as their performance improves.
To date, IMI ACE has conducted 2 pilot studies involving autistic children, adolescents and young adults.