Purpose: This pilot study explored the use of virtual reality-based games as an enjoyable yet effective intervention to improve skills in children with developmental disabilities. Although the intervention was primarily targeted at the enhancement of motor skills, the children’s communication, cognitive and social/emotional skills were also monitored and changes, if any, were tracked during this period.
Methods: Therapists guided 5 children (4 boys with Autism Spectrum Disorder and 1 girl with Learning Disability) while they played carefully chosen games on the Xbox-Kinect, in individual sessions. Each child attended between 4 and 6 sessions over a span of one month. Therapists used a 4-point rating scale to evaluate specific skills in each of the four domains (motor, communication, cognitive and social/emotional) at the beginning of the intervention, and again at the end.
Results: Pre-and post-intervention scores revealed that the children made significant progress, not only in certain motor skills but also in skills from the cognitive and social/emotional domains. None of the children regressed in any of the skills monitored from the different domains.
Conclusions: Initial findings indicate that virtual reality games provide a useful platform for building interventions for children with developmental disabilities. There is much scope for future research in this area. The results of the study provide insights into the skills which might require prolonged, consistent inputs during the intervention, and the ones which might be acquired quickly through leaps in learning. The different ways in which children with varied developmental profiles might benefit from virtual reality-based interventions were also highlighted.