Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 2016) indicate that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is considered a “spectrum” neurological disorder because it varies widely in its specific behaviors and intensity. Some observable challenges include atypical behavior with communication and social interactions. Although there is currently no known cure for ASD, there is evidence that individuals can make significant progress with early intervention and appropriate therapy.
Students in the Television Production Magnet Program are exploring coding and STEAM learning activities to create Virtual Reality projects that are meaningful and sustainable for the community at large. After seeing some challenges that students with Autism experience in their own classrooms, the opportunity to apply coding skills to develop a software program in which students with Autism can practice their communication and social skills would be meaningful and truly impact the lives of these students. This is an authentic need for ASD students at our school and in the community at large. TV Production students can develop a better understanding of their classmates, exercise compassion to develop a STEM product to help their classmates and ultimately make the Inclusion experience of ASD students at South Miami and other high schools more successful.
The concept of developing a Be Social VR Software program and opportunity to acquire more technology resources can expand STEAM learning and impact the community by helping more students develop important life skills and ultimately….Be Social.Student research group has completed internet research and reached out to parents of ASD students, and initiated contact with the local University of Miami Center for Autism Research Development UM- CARD and Autism Speaks. Video of students consulting with community experts will be included.
A Design Group is working on the various levels of the software. This includes programming the various activities and levels within the software. They are designing the virtual environments that will be used as part of the scenarios. Video will include various images of students creating the software during the various stages of the design development.
Visual Scripting (Coding) Group
A Coding Group is coding the user interaction component with the software. This includes creating characters, and scenarios in which students must communicate and practice social behavior. This group is interacting with the Research Group to develop virtual scenarios that high school students with ASD will benefit the most from. For example, scenarios that will be developed include: meeting new friends, interacting with students in the cafeteria, encountering students in the hallways and other typical high school social scenarios. Video will include students brainstorming the different scenarios to be included and scripting the scenes.
Reaching out to Stakeholders
During the software development stage we will consult with parents of ASD students, the school ASD district support staff and the University of Miami CARD Center.
Once the software is finalized, we will develop a parent permission/release form for students to use the Be Social VR software and practice the skills to.... Be Social.
Software Training and Class Implementation Schedule
We will train teachers at our school working with ASD students on how to use the software and create a schedule for TV Production students to assist at appropriate times in the student schedule. Close attention to scheduling actual usage time will be important to not disrupt either learning environment and maximize the benefits of this implementation. Video will include students with ASD actually using the software in class.