“A clinician-driven virtual learning platform, tailored to young adults on the autism spectrum, results in improved social competency, a pilot study shows.
The findings, from researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, in collaboration with co-leading authors at George Washington University and Yale, reveal that increases in socio-emotional and socio-cognitive abilities correlate with brain change.
Results included increased activation in the right posterior superior temporal sulcus, the brain’s socio-cognition hub, with gains linked to improvement on an empathy measure.”
“At the recent Special Education Technology Needs (SETN) conference in Sydney, Kieran Nolan, ICT technician at Wooranna Park Primary School in Dandenong North, ran a session on engaging and motivating special needs students with immersive technologies.
“We’ve had great success with students on the autism spectrum with the Titans of Space program using Oculus Rift [a virtual-reality headset]. The students virtually travel around the entire solar system, learning about each planet as they visit them.”
Students also upload their more artistic photos to a virtual art gallery.
“They take turns ‘walking’ through the art gallery to see their work,” Mr Nolan says.
Video is an old technology, but it is being used as a tool to teach special-needs students a behaviour or skill, says Shane Spence, who ran a session on Video Self Modelling. He is the director of meTV Education at Yarra Ranges Special Developmental School in Mount Evelyn, and streaming Australia-wide.
The idea is to show a child a two-minute or less video of themselves performing a skill they cannot currently perform.
“The learning is much more powerful when it’s yourself that you are watching and imitating,” says Anthea Naylor, a special education teacher at Yarra Ranges.”
“Lieutenant Rocco’s recently returned from deployment in Iraq and he’s having trouble acclimating. He sits near the edge of a sofa in his social worker’s office, still dressed in fatigues, and sporting a buzz cut. Even though he says he’s okay, he admits to getting flack from his boss about his lack of productivity and that he’s arguing with his wife. “There are things I don’t want to talk about with her. Things I can’t get out of my head,” he says.
The more you listen in on Lieutenant Rocco’s session, the easier it becomes to forget the slightly odd cadences of his speech and the blocky outlines of his clothing which point out that the Lieutenant isn’t a real person. He’s a digital avatar designed to be a training tool as part of University of Southern California School of Social Work’s curriculum for the Master of Social Work degree with a Sub-concentration in Military Social Work. A virtual patient like Lieutenant Rocco teaches prospective counselors how to deal with soldiers returning from duty where they may have witnessed life-altering atrocities.”
BY LYDIA DISHMAN at Fast Company
Images/video courtesy USC Institute for Creative Technologies