Peacock Scholarship

Virtual Reality Technologies and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Directors of Special Services’ Perceptions

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This qualitative study explored the impact of virtual reality technologies on the educational setting of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as perceived by participating directors of special services. The significant increase in the number of students being diagnosed with ASD affects school districts across the country. These districts struggle to meet the high level of needs for support and services required to ensure students an educational experience that maximizes learning. There are no fixed solutions for students with ASD. However, the expanding market of innovative technologies, including virtual reality technologies, may offer alternative supports in the educational experience of the learner, with claims to provide a particularly facilitatory environment for students with ASD. There is, however, a lack of substantive research examining how directors of special services, frequently one of the the lead decision-makers in determining programming and technology acquisitions for classified students, perceive this relatively new and innovative technology as a potentially effective intervention. Data were collected from eight semistructured interviews with participating directors of special services in both public and private K-12 schools in Monmouth County, New Jersey, as identified through the New Jersey Department of Education’s 2016-17 Directory of Directors/Supervisors of Pupil Personnel/Special Services. Data were analyzed to identify common themes among directors pertaining to the potential impact of virtual reality technologies on the educational experience of students with ASD. Attitudes toward teacher professional development to implement these technologies in the classroom setting were also examined. Data revealed important themes regarding the perceived potential of this intervention. These themes included the importance of life skills and social skills as a priori to academic competencies and the value of interactivity and experiential nature of technology. Data also revealed notablethemes regarding the effective facilitation of staff professional development for implementation of these technologies. Among these were fear and resistance to change, the importance of professional development structure, and the value of a culture of technology. This study contributes to the existing literature regarding best practices in technology integration for supporting students with special needs, particularly those with ASD. It attempts to provide district leaders with a better understanding of the ways in which virtual reality technologies can offer alternative educational supports that may have a positive impact on the academic competencies, life skills, and social skills of students with ASD. The study also provides a lens through which district leaders may better perceive barriers to staff professional development, and how a culture of technology may help mitigate these factors

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  • 10/27/2023
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