Virtual reality, while already popular for gaming purposes, is seeing increased use as an educational and therapeutic tool. Young children are a demographic that can truly benefit from using VR solutions for a variety of purposes, some industry watchers believe. To target this demographic, VR developers should develop educational tools and games with age-appropriate content and can try inspiring themselves by taking a look at the variety of such experiences that are already available on the market, many of which can be used for skills training and education of differently-abled children.
E.g. virtual reality has numerous applications aimed at teaching social skills to children with autism, as researchers have developed experimental applications that allow counselors and therapists to interact with young individuals. These experts will serve as either coaches or conversational partners of children with autism depending on the scenario being replicated, which may include meeting a peer, confronting bullies, and inviting others to parties. Recently, a virtual reality therapy for children with autism was commercialized by a Washington startup Floreo which refers to its service as “immersive autism therapy.” As part of this therapy, kids are taught social skills and stories in a safe environment without any fear of negative social consequences. This approach also allows for a supervising adult to monitor the progress of children undergoing the procedure and collect relevant data, making the results of the exam more transparent and measurable. Able-bodied individuals can also learn skills like driving using VR applications that replicate real-life environments.
Aside from therapeutic purposes, virtual reality can be an important medium of entertainment for differently-abled children, especially those who are wheelchair-bound. Games using VR technology can become an amazing experience as they allow wheelchair-bound children to control their in-game characters with little effort, providing them with the ability to compete with any other individuals and giving them a sense of belonging and achievement, some experts suggest. While not all VR games have features that cater to differently-abled individuals, the current crop of games show promise on what virtual reality can do to entertain children whose restricted mobility impacts their ability to play games.