Feasibility and Safety of Immersive Virtual Reality As a Tool to Improve Police Safety in Adolescents and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Objectives: Assess the safety and feasibility of an immersive VR-based Police Safety Module (PSM) developed by Floreo, Inc. for verbally fluent adolescents and adults with ASD.
Methods: Sixty individuals aged 12-60 years (Mean=16.9, 52 male) with ASD completed 1-3 visits during Phase I of the present study. IQ was estimated at the beginning of the study (Weschler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence; WASI-II) to ensure that all participants met a minimum verbal and overall IQ of ≥ 75 (Mean VCI=104, Mean FSIQ=104.5). During each visit, participants engaged in four 2-minute interactions with virtual police officers. Safety was assessed through direct experimenter observations, participant questionnaires, and a qualitative interview that inquired about potential adverse side effects. System usability was indexed via participant ratings on the System Usability Scale (Brook, 1996), adapted for adolescents and adults with ASD.
Results: Scores on the revised version of the System Usability Scale ranged from 52.5-100, with the average score exceeding a minimum acceptable score of 70 (Mean=85.3, SD=3.54). Ninety-eight percent of participants completed the entirety of the PSM. Five participants reported mild effects after usage (such as slight headache or disorientation) and no serious adverse events occurred. Eighty percent of participants reported that they would like to use this VR again, suggesting that this program is feasible in verbally fluent adolescents and adults with ASD.
Conclusions: This first-of-its-kind study demonstrated that using immersive VR to teach police safety skills in adolescents and adults with ASD is safe and feasible, with no serious adverse effects and acceptable usability scores. Phase II, beginning spring 2019, includes a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of Floreo PSM on behavior while interacting with live police officers.