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SoundFields: A Virtual Reality Game Designed to Address Auditory Hypersensitivity in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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JournalApplied Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 23 Apr 2020
DatePublished (current) - Apr 2020
Issue number9
Volume10
Number of pages17
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are characterised as having impairments in social-emotional interaction and communication, alongside displaying repetitive behaviours and interests. Additionally, they can frequently experience difficulties in processing sensory information with particular prevalence in the auditory domain. Often triggered by everyday environmental sounds, auditory hypersensitivity can provoke self-regulatory fear responses such as crying and isolation from sounds. This paper presents SoundFields, an interactive virtual reality game designed to address this area by integrating exposure based therapy techniques into game mechanics and delivering target auditory stimuli to the player rendered via binaural based spatial audio. A pilot study was conducted with six participants diagnosed with ASD who displayed hypersensitivity to specific sounds to evaluate the use of SoundFields as a tool to reduce levels of anxiety associated with identified problematic sounds. During the course of the investigation participants played the game weekly over four weeks and all participants actively engaged with the virtual reality (VR) environment and enjoyed playing the game. Following this period, a comparison of pre- and post-study measurements showed a significant decrease in anxiety linked to target auditory stimuli. The study results therefore suggest that SoundFields could be an effective tool for helping individuals with autism manage auditory hypersensitivity.

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