Alyssa Ledingham & Kristin Mow

Validating Socio-Emotional Scenarios for a Virtual Reality Autism Intervention

Authors: Alyssa Ledingham, Kristin Mow, Parisa Ghanouni, & Dr. Tal Jarus

Introduction. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have difficulty developing socio-emotional skills that are essential for participation in school, play, and community settings. Virtual reality (VR) environments can help improve socio-emotional skills in an interactive and customizable way. Involving stakeholders in the development of these programs will ensure end users’ needs are met. Despite the importance of socio-emotional skills in ASD and the value of stakeholders’ perspectives, there are no VR programs incorporating stakeholders’ ideas. Objectives. To involve stakeholders in developing and validating the content of a VR intervention, which includes socio-emotional scenarios that children with ASD may find difficult to understand. Method. We used the Delphi method, a structured and iterative process of group judgments. Approximately 40 stakeholders in the field of ASD (experienced clinicians and parents of children with ASD) completed two rounds of online questionnaires to refine and validate the VR scenarios and corresponding emotions. Scenarios that reached a 75% agreement level were accepted. Implications. Validated scenarios can help occupational therapists and parents identify certain skills requiring further attention. Stakeholders can use these scenarios with children to practice real life interactions. Using these scenarios in a VR program will decrease costs and keep children motivated while engaged in occupational therapy services. Conclusion. This project used a client-centred approach to incorporate stakeholders’ ideas in developing a novel VR program for children with ASD, which will facilitate their participation in daily activities and interpersonal communications.