Virtual reality program at WIU to assist students with learning disabilities

With the latest technology, there is a new virtual reality program at Western Illinois University that is specifically designed for students with high functioning autism and learning disabilities.

“It’s all to teach social skills, and specifically how to dialogue with others and how to interact with them,” Associate Professor of Computer Science Justin Ehrlich said.

With this highly new interactive program, students will be able to explore a wide variety of environments that will allow for them to see things in a whole new perspective.

Using a virtual hallways, cafeterias, and classrooms, it will give students a chance to interact in these environments, which will help them in the real world.

“We’re trying to make this as realistic as possible,” Ehrlich said, “we’ve had previous work using old technology that we’ve proven that yes, it is effective – more effective than traditional intervention.”

Ehrlich said the money for the program comes from the U.S. Department of Education.

“We got a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education for $2.5 million, and $300,000 is going to Western Illinois University to develop the application,” Ehrlich said.

As the use of technology improves over time, Ehrlich also said virtual reality will be in schools more often.

Students will use their social skills in and out of the classrooms as they learn their virtual reality will become actuality.