Vol. 2, Issue 8 (2015)
Planning a neighborhood walk for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): from virtual to actual journey
Author(s): Patricia Ng Mui Hoon, Noel Chia Kok Hwee
Abstract: The paper sets a hypothetical context for special education teachers in planning a neighborhood walk (NW) for a small group of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using the Google Map Streetview (GMS) as a virtual reality application. It begins by defining clinically what ASD is as well as highlighting its psychiatric and sensory processing challenges. Knowing these challenges, it is important for teachers to keep in mind potential issues of concerns when planning to take their students with ASD out for a a learning journey or walk in the neighborhood of their school. The administration of three assessment tools is also recommended for the design of the intervention. These are the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), the 6-Factor Analysis Structure for Sensory Processing Patterns (6-FASSPP), and the Neighborhood Environment Walkability Scale (NEWS) for the assessment of the psychiatric and sensory processing challenges each student might have, as well as the walkability of the neighborhood. The data obtained from these tools can be used in triangulation to identify the hotspots or trigger points for the students. A virtual walk using the GMS format can then be customized for training in a laboratory so that they can handle the hotspots that cannot be avoided in the journey. In this way, the students can practice the walk and be conditioned to manage their behavior at the hotspots without undergoing any real risks. The congeniality of this VR application suits the principles of universal design for learning and is therefore advocated for use as an intervention for a learning journey or NW.