Virtual environments for social skills training: comments from two adolescents with autistic spectrum disorder

Sarah Parsons, A Leonard, P Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

126 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has shown that computer-based tasks can motivate people with autism and encourage learning. As a computer-based medium, Virtual Environments (VEs) offer a potentially useful tool for social skills training for people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs). However, there are some concerns over whether people with ASDs can understand, use and interpret the technology appropriately. This paper adopts a qualitative case-study approach to report observations of, and comments from, two adolescent boys with ASDs, gathered during a series of sessions using a virtual cafe and bus environment. Although there were signs of repetitive behaviours, literal interpretation of the scenes, and that the VEs were treated as not having real-world relevance, these were not the dominant modes of responding. Instead, participants seemed to interpret the scenes meaningfully and appreciated the opportunities to discuss appropriate social responses with a facilitator sitting alongside. They enjoyed using the VEs and provided specific examples of how the VEs had helped, or could help, them in the real world. This gives encouraging support for the idea that VEs can be used and interpreted meaningfully by at least some students with ASDs. The paper concludes with some considerations for the future development of VEs for members of this population. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-206
Number of pages21
JournalComputers & Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006


  • virtual reality
  • autism
  • social skills
  • teaching/learning strategies
  • interactive learning environments


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