Virtual Reality Therapy Used to Help Autistic Children Overcome Phobias

A clinical trial has recently been conducted to help autistic children overcome debilitating phobias. Medical research has shown that approximately 25% of autistic children are badly affected by unbearable phobias.


These phobias are often of every day, mundane activities such as: public transport, classrooms, animals and balloons, making it very hard for autistic children to adjust to the realities of everyday life.


Typically cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is used to help tackle phobias, but this therapy is less successful on autistic children because it requires a good sense of imagination and visualisation. By using virtual reality therapy, autistic children will not need to imagine or visualise anything, as virtual reality makes images come to life.


The research into this new form of therapy was conducted by specialists at Newcastle university and Third Eye Neuro-Tech a technology company. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health and Research (NIHR) and has been published by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.


This newly developed virtual reality experience does not require a headset allowing children the ability to properly interact with this created environment. After 6 months, 38% of the children that were tested on were able to control their phobias to a manageable degree. The trial is being seen as a huge success.


More research is being conducted. Research has also been conducted into how adults respond to virtual reality therapy. So far research is very promising and adults have responded really positively to the treatment.