Using virtual reality to train emotional and social skills in children with autism spectrum disorder

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

14 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-112
Journal / PublicationLondon Journal of Primary Care
Issue number4
Online published7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018



With emerging technology, computerised, internet-based and virtual reality (VR)-based treatment and training became increasingly popular. VR provides an immersive experience into a simulated environment. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterised by social communication deficits and repetitive behaviours. Children with ASD often require social skills training while VR provides a safe, controllable environment to practice skills repeatedly. The Centre for Innovative Applications of Internet and Multimedia Technologies (AIMTech Centre) at City University of Hong Kong developed a VR-enabled training program to examine its efficacy on emotional and social skills with six VR scenarios depicting the daily lives of typical children in Hong Kong. 94 children from mainstream primary schools in Hong Kong completed the study and 72 children were included in the analysis. Children from training group scored higher on emotion expression and regulation (M = 20.2, SD = 3.00) than before the training (M = 18.9, SD = 3.57, t(35) = −2.174, p = .037) and higher on social interaction and adaptation after the training (M = 21.8, SD = 2.99) than before training (M = 20.2, SD = 3.43, t(35) = −3.987, p < .0005). There was a statistically significant interaction between group and time on affective expressions, F(1, 70) = 5.223, p = .025, partial η2 = .069, and on social reciprocity, F(1, 70) = 7.769, p = .007, partial η2 = .100. Children were able to engage in VR training despite initial challenges with viewing goggles. Some children declined to participate due to scheduling reasons which may be minimised through the adoption of head-mounted displays as a portable, cost-effective device. VR seems to be a promising asset to traditional training and therapy while the importance trainers’ or therapists’ support has yet to be further investigated.

Research Area(s)

  • Autism spectrum disorder, child, emotions, social skills, virtual reality

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