New virtual reality platform for Aussie kids with intellectual disabilities

A new virtual reality platform is being developed to help Australian children with intellectual disabilities to build self-confidence and practice everyday life skills.

Around one in 22 children in Australia have an intellectual disability, or nearly 5% of the population.

The platform, developed by the University of South Australia and funded by Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, aims to help those children become self-sufficient, in a safe, controlled environment.

Project lead and Early Career Researcher, UniSA’s Stefan Michalski, said whether it’s getting dressed, learning how to cook, or simply sorting the daily trash, routine skills are an essential part of everyday life.

“But for children with an intellectual disability, these tasks can be challenging, so finding ways for them to practice and become more independent is key.

“Our virtual reality program will let a child practice a range of life skills in a safe and controlled environment so that they gain familiarity with the task and can build their capabilities to undertake it.

“The beauty of VR is that it can be modified to complement an individual’s learning style. Plus, it easily enables repeat scenarios so a child can practice a task until they are comfortable with their abilities.

“Importantly, being able to practice in an online space means that children can safely experience and practice key skills without danger, which makes it much easier to teach higher-risk activities such as working with hot surfaces in a kitchen.”