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Virtual reality could soon help children with autism improve their social skills

Gear VR

Virtual reality has been used to tackle people's fears, teach doctor's how to perform heart surgery and now it's being used to help treat children with autism.

Often those who live with autism experience social difficulties, despite having above average intellect, and a new study has revealed VR may be a suitable and safe way to help ease their anxieties.

The study, by researchers at the University of Texas, allowed children to interact with virtual reality avatars to discuss new strategies for dealing with social situations.

Researchers found the children involved in the test had improved social cognition skills and better relationships at the end of the treatment.

Safe place

"Individuals with autism may become overwhelmed and anxious in social situations," research clinician Dr. Nyaz Didehbani said.

"The virtual reality training platform creates a safe place for participants to practice social situations without the intense fear of consequence."

The study monitored 30 young people between the ages of seven and 16 through 10 one-hour sessions over the period of five weeks.

While the VR treatment remains in the early stages of its use, this study proves yet again that virtual reality isn't just for gaming and can even help those in need.