This article seeks to place children on the autism spectrum at the centre of a study examining the potential of virtual reality head-mounted displays used in classrooms. In doing so we provide data that addresses three important and often overlooked research questions in the field of autism and technology; working in school-based settings with 31 autistic children from 6-16 years of age. Firstly, what type of VR HMD device (and experiences therein) are preferred by children on the autism spectrum using head-mounted displays (given possible sensory concerns). Secondly, how do children on the autism spectrum report the physical experience, enjoyment, and potential of VR HMDs in their classrooms? Finally, we were interested in exploring what children on the autism spectrum would like to use VR in schools for? Through a mixed methods approach we found that costly and technologically advanced HMDs were preferred (namely: HTC Vive). In addition, HMDs were reported as being enjoyable, physically and visually comfortable, easy to use, exciting and children wanted to use them again. They identified several potential usages for HMDs, including; relaxing / feeling calm, being able to explore somewhere virtually before visiting in the real world and to develop learning opportunities in school. We discuss these findings in the context of VR in classrooms in addition to considering limitations and implication of our findings.
Newbutt, N., Bradley, R., & Conley, I. (2020). Using virtual reality head-mounted displays with autistic children: views, experiences and future directions. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 23(1), 23-33. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2019.0206