WorkingThrough: Virtual Reality training in work related skills for Individuals with Autism
Autism is known as a neurodevelopmental disorder that often manifests with a variety of characteristics and symptoms (ASD). Usually, these symptoms manifest as a lack of interest in social interaction or notable awkwardness, which results in a lack of engagement in activities that promote social integration. Down the road, this deficit affects work prospects by limiting opportunities or impeding the progress of already working people as they do not receive the appropriate support in order to sustain or perform their jobs well.
The WorkingThrough project is funded by the EU and supported by IKY within the Erasmus+ framework and offers a high-quality learning opportunity using Virtual Reality technology in combination with social scripts to train individuals with Autism in soft skills, as the working environments become gradually more challenging. Within this framework, Habilis, a multidisciplinary center specializing in mental health treatment (Greece), set up the aforementioned program along with partners from Ireland (NUIG), Denmark (Specialisterne), Cyprus (MMC & CCC) and Greece (Omega Technologies).
The pedagogical framework for the virtual reality (VR) intervention was founded on evidence-based practices, with several guiding principles to support effective learning outcomes for the participants. This is considered a learner-centered pedagogy, whereby the learner is actively engaged with the VR environment, through using their existing knowledge and skills, to train and hone their abilities in different socially challenging opportunities such as meeting a stranger, initiating and sustaining a conversation, recognizing emotions, handling job interviews, negotiating, working with co-workers and managing conflict. The VR environment serves to structure the learning opportunities and the instructor acts as the facilitator for the acquisition of these new social skills repertoires. Active engagement by the learner with the VR social environment ensures that skills are learned independently, with greater possibilities of generalization to everyday environments.
After the conclusion of the project the VR scenarios that were developed will be offered to all trainers interested in using our methods for free, along with an authoring tool that can modify existing or create new scenarios, accompanied by certified materials, developed withing a sound pedagogical framework.
For more information, please visit the program’s official website