Dynamic Interactive Social Cognition Training in Virtual Reality (DiSCoVR) for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A feasibility study

B. J. van Pelt*, S. A. Nijman, N. E.M. van Haren, W. Veling, G. H.M. Pijnenborg, I. D.C. van Balkom, A. M. Landlust, K. Greaves-Lord

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Social cognitive difficulties in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can affect the daily lives of people with ASD profoundly, impacting the development and maintenance of meaningful social relations. Social cognition training (SCT) is commonly used for improving social functioning, but lacks ecological validity and the ability to effectively mimic social situations. Development of virtual reality (VR) interventions, focusing on enhancing social cognition, could add to the effectiveness of SCT within ASD care, by offering a safe, interactive and practical training setting, where generalization of knowledge and skills to the real-world are promoted. In this paper, our primary aim is to evaluate the feasibility and acceptance by participants and therapists of the Dynamic Interactive Social Cognition Method: Training in Virtual Reality (DiSCoVR) protocol as developed for adults with schizophrenic spectrum disorder (SSD), adapted for ASD (DiSCoVR-A). 26 participants, aged 18–63, took part in a pilot study. 22 participants completed baseline and post-assessment, including primary outcome evaluation assessment through a semi-structured interview. Secondary measures focused on social cognition, emotion recognition, mental flexibility, social anxiety, empathy and social responsiveness and were assessed at baseline (T0), post-treatment (T1), and at follow-up (T2) sixteen weeks after completion of the intervention. Results: Our results show that the majority of participant and therapists found the VR intervention acceptable and feasible, as reported in evaluation questionnaires and interviews. Conclusion: These preliminary findings are promising; however, controlled research is needed to further investigate the effectiveness of VR within social cognition training for adults with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102003
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank all our participants and therapists who participated in the study. The study was supported and funded by a Dutch philanthropic foundation that is committed to improving treatment in (young) adults with autism. The Foundation has had no influence in the design of the study, data collection, analysis or interpretation of data, publication of results or writing this manuscript.

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