Innovative use of virtual reality in autism spectrum disorder: A case-study

Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2021 Jan;10(1):90-100. doi: 10.1080/21622965.2019.1610964. Epub 2019 May 15.


Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are developmental disorders affecting communication and behavior. ASD incidence in the world population is about 1%, with a 4:1 ratio between males and females. In clinical practice, ASDs have been usually treated with cognitive-behavioral approaches, involving a face-to-face interaction with the therapist. Over the last years, virtual reality (VR) has played an important role in neurorehabilitation, even for ASD cognitive treatment. A 16-year-old boy with severe ASD and his caregiver were enrolled in the study. Two different cognitive trainings were administered; first, the boy was submitted to one-month cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT); then, after one month of rest, a combined approach using VR (by means of the BTS-Nirvana System) and CBT was applied. Only the combined approach provided an improvement in attention processes and spatial cognition skills, with a significant reduction of ideomotor stereotypes. According to this experience, the use of VR in addition to CBT could be a useful and promising tool to improve cognitive function in individuals severely affected by ASD.

Keywords: ASD; autism; cognitive rehabilitation; neuropsychological assessment; virtual reality environment.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Cognitive Remediation*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Creativity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted*
  • Virtual Reality