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virtual reality program for students with autism

What is Cognality?

By The Cognality Team

April 30, 2020

This post was authored by the Cognality team, a startup from the 2019 LaunchX summer program cohort. You can find their orignal post here, and learn more about them on their website.

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Cognality helps autistic children deal with triggering situations by allowing them to transport to their safe space through virtual reality.

children using VR headsets

People with autism are usually highly sensitive to their environments. This is different for people on the spectrum, but in general, autistic people have unusually sensitive “sensory” systems. This means that they can be easily overwhelmed by senses sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

It is challenging for people with autism to simply ignore unwanted sensory information as it comes in. This usually leads to a meltdown. A meltdown is ‘an intense response to overwhelming situations’. It usually happens when someone becomes completely overwhelmed by their current situation and loses behavioral control temporarily. This loss of control can be expressed verbally (shouting, screaming, crying), physically (kicking, lashing out, biting) or in both ways.

Thus, unlike people with typical sensory systems, people on the spectrum may not be able to, for example, notice an alarm going off and then decide not to listen to it.

Some of the environmental challenges that can negatively impact people with autism include:

  • Fluorescent lights which flicker and/or buzz
  • Strong smells like that from cleaning supplies, new carpets, perfumes, certain foods, and cologne
  • Fluttering curtains, posters, and other wall hangings
  • Persistent sounds blowing leaves, babies crying, dogs barking outside, ticking clocks, dripping water, traffic noises, etc.

How Do You Help Your Child?

The best way to help calm your child is to identify when your child is on the verge of the meltdown and take them to a quiet place where they can redeem themselves. However, this is sometimes not possible, especially in public places. With the usage of virtual reality, Cognality offers instant transportation to your child’s favorite calm place anywhere and at any time.

While your child uses the headset, you can view exactly what they are seeing through a separate phone, tablet, or computer.

How Do You Use Cognality?

  1. Once you choose the subscription of your choice, you will be sent a complimentary headset to use.
  2. Once you receive your headset, introduce it to your child. Have them put on the headset by themselves without a phone inside.
  3. Proceed to launch a scene of your choice on your phone and insert the phone in the headset.
  4. Have your child put on the headset with the scene and let them get used to the feeling.
  5. Once you feel like your child has gotten used to Cognality, encourage them to use it when they are in a triggering situation that might lead to a meltdown.
  6. We recommend pairing the headset with a pair of headphones and a stress ball.

Testimonials from our Beta Testers

“My child was happy and wanted to explore more…It helps the child to block out any visual or auditory stressors and redirect their attention.”

Leanne, mother of six year old child with autism

“I love that [Cognality is] working to develop tools and technology to support children with Autism and their families! This is a great area of need as rate of diagnosis continue…[this] is a great idea.”

Portia Abernathy — Special needs teacher, disability rights advocate

Where to find us

Visit www.cognalityvr.com to learn more!

Sources

https://www.autism.org.uk/about/behaviour/meltdowns.aspx

https://medium.com/@AshleaMcKay/the-m-word-we-need-to-talk-about-adult-autistic-meltdowns-fec98f60157b

Autism helpline

Call 0808 808 3555 to get information, support and advice about autism.