Virtual reality for autism: for phobias and fears


The virtual reality is one of the technological advances that have shown its multiple health benefits. They help to reduce pain thanks to virtual anesthesia, they allow to overcome phobias by facing the patient to their greatest means, they help to relieve anxiety, allow to inform through gamification, systems of goals and prizes, to the patients, mainly the smallest ones. And it also helps people with disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ASD affects more and more people, it is estimated that one in every 100 born has this pathology. In Spain there is no registry of autistic people, but according to the Autism Confederation Spain it is estimated that there are about 4https://www.consalud.es/70,000 people with ASD. Each person develops different symptoms, although in general they all share communication and social interaction problems and difficulties in being flexible in life situations.[banner-DFP_1]

This makes it very difficult for them to start conversations, exposure to different events such as public speaking, face their fears like dogs or being with many people. These situations can generate a lot of stress and end up causing a crisis if they don’t know how to handle it. In this sense, psychological therapies are added as a hopeful tool different types of virtual realities, which expose patients to these situations in a safe and controlled environment.

Two projects focused on people with ASD: Lancelot for children with autism and CicerON for people with Asperger syndrome

The digital training center, U-tad, has developed together with Laura Ray, Postgraduate director of extended realities at U-tad, two projects focused on people with ASD: Lancelot for children with autism and CicerON for people with Asperger syndrome, a developmental disorder included in ASD characterized by having great memory skills.


CicerON is a project developed under the chair of Indra and the Universia Foundation, “it is designed to help people with asperger’s to overcome the difficulties they may have at the time of public speaking”, explains for SaludDigital Laura Raya.

Thanks to virtual reality, they help these people, mainly if they are in the adolescent or university stage and need speaking in public to help job placement. For this “we expose them in a way incremental and gradual in the face of difficulties so that he can train”.

The first levels are empty auditoriums. Young people face having to speak before seats without people, to get used to wide spaces and an elevated situation such as that of a stage. Then there are scenes with people who do not pay much attention to him, so that by not being attended to they do not feel so much pressure. And then they come to the most difficult: a single person who has all their senses focused on him as he speaks.

They are established according to the fears that the people themselves pointed out. Virtual reality allows them to train situations while being exposed to them in a similar way as they would in the real world”, explains Raya.


  • And what is the Lancelot project?
  • Well, it has a very similar philosophy, but this time aimed at children with autism

    Capture of one of the virtual worlds generated in Lancelot (Photo. Utad)

In some of the therapies to help people with autism relate dogs are used. Dog-assisted therapy favors attention, reduces stress and helps people with ASD improve their emotional, social and communication skills during consultations. Some children have this assistance dog for years because it helps them too improve their safety and autonomy.

All these projects are public, and have worked successfully in the tests carried out.

But of course, some children, like those who do not have disorders, may be afraid of dogs. “When they are afraid of dogs makes social progress very difficult. Ray explains. And, due to his lack of flexibility in other situations and his difficulty in managing stress You can suffer emotional and physical loss of control. Lancelot, from U-tad with the Pauta Association and the Orange Foundation, tries to solve that.

“You need a psychologist to control from away to the patient while exposing himself to the phobia.” And it is not an exhibition like ideation or more risky with real dogs, but with virtual reality, cartoon dogs. “It allows you to control the pulse, sweat, anxiety or other parameters that tell us if the phobia is growing or not.”

All these projects are public, and have worked successfully in the tests carried out. “We hope it reaches more people to be able to help them to improve their quality of life and their social relations”, Ray concludes.

Because we all need health… ConSalud.es