Using Augmented and Virtual Reality to Improve Social, Vocational, and Academic Outcomes of Students With Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities

Using Augmented and Virtual Reality to Improve Social, Vocational, and Academic Outcomes of Students With Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities

Ryan O. Kellems, Gulnoza Yakubova, Jared R. Morris, Alex Wheatley, Briella Baer Chen
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5043-4.ch008
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Some individuals with disabilities are unable to work independently and often require additional instruction to complete basic tasks. To prepare students with disabilities for life after school, practitioners need to help them learn the skills necessary to live a happy, productive, and fulfilling life. Two technologies showing promise for such learning are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications. This chapter will discuss how AR and VR can successfully be used to teach academic, social, and vocational skills to students with disabilities, including research that has been conducted to date. Additionally, guidance is provided for teachers seeking to use AR and VR in classroom and community learning environments. The chapter will conclude with directions for further research and future applications of AR and VR with students with disabilities.
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Current advances in technology have made innovative interventions available that in the past were either too expensive or simply not possible. Some of these interventions are well suited for students with disabilities. Two of these technologies that build upon the research-based strategy of video-based instruction are AR and VR as means of delivering video-based instruction.

Video-based interventions can be traced back to Bandura’s (1978) social learning theory, which demonstrated how using video models of aggression could shape human behavior. Since Bandura’s work, researchers and practitioners have explored video modeling applications across domains, including social and play skills, vocational skills and tasks, and academic learning.

Social skills were a logical first step for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), since deficits in social communication and understanding are identifying characteristics. Video modeling has been used to teach students to initiate conversations (Nikopoulos & Keenan, 2004) and to maintain social skills. Focus on vocational skills followed. Researchers used video modeling to teach adults how to entertain customers in a retail establishment (Allen, Wallace, Renes, Bowen, & Burke, 2010). Kellems and Morningstar (2012) demonstrated how video modeling could be used to teach a variety of vocational skills to young adults with autism in authentic learning environments. Most recently, academic skills have been examined. Hart and Whalon (2012) were able to increase academic responding for a student with autism and intellectual disability. Other researchers have used video models to teach mathematics and handwriting (Kellems et al., 2016).

Video modeling has been effective for individuals with ASD and IDD due to prevalent deficits of these disabilities that video modeling can improve or remedy: restricted focus, inclination for visual stimuli, and discomfort for face-to-face interaction (Corbett & Abdullah, 2005). Video modeling engages individuals with ASD and IDD through the use of technology, a relevant and high interest means that narrows the field of attention. Video modeling also offers repetition in presentation and practice that does not require face-to-face interaction, thereby making the learning environment more comfortable and suited to skill level.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Specialized Instruction: A mode of service delivery of core academic content that only includes a subset of students who have not been able to acquire skills taught by traditional methods to the entire student body.

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

Video Modeling: An evidence-based practice that involves filming a skill that can be viewed later by a learner in order to practice and acquire the targeted skill.

Universal Design for Learning: A framework of instruction that targets multiple ways to optimize student engagement, representation of content, and expression of content knowledge all in the same learning environment.

Generalization: When a skill that was taught to an individual under one subset of conditions is then used by that individual in other applicable conditions independent of further explicit instruction.

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: A group of conditions that become present in the developmental stages of human physiology. The conditions are considered life-long impairments and adversely impact one or more major life functions. Examples include Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Disability, and Intellectual Disability.

Social Validity: Whether a practice is viewed as appropriate in cultural environments and accepted by stakeholders as being feasible and worth the time and effort to implement and tolerate.

Intervention: A specific practice found in specialized instruction that targets one skill. Stages of the practice include collecting data on skill proficiency before, during, and after implementation. Checklists of implementation and data collection are followed.

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