A Prior’s Court teacher has spoken at an international conference about our award-shortlisted use of Virtual Reality to benefit young people with complex autism.

Virtual Reality is being used at Prior’s Court to allow our young people to enjoy new experiences, accustom themselves to real world situations and benefit from desensitisation programmes without leaving the familiar locations of classroom or the home.

Our Computing Teacher Nuno Guerreiro presented at the first day of the International Conference on Childhood and Adolescence, usually held in his native Portugal but this year staged online.

Nuno’s presentation on Wednesday, 26 January, called "Virtual Reality: Making the Impossible Possible", was part of a round table discussion on e-health.

The Virtual Reality work, led by Nuno, has involved collaboration between Education, Residential and multi-disciplinary teams to use Virtual Reality headsets as a complementary resource to existing approaches.

The technology has been used to provide our young people with access to relaxing sensory experiences, desensitisation around scenarios such as being on a bus or medical environments, and enjoying new experiences such as skiing.

One success, at the start of 2020, involved supporting one young person to board a plane to go on an overseas family holiday for the first time in nine years, while the technology has also been used to complement the work of our on-site therapy team with phobia treatment (particularly around animals) and desensitisation around medical settings.

A research project around using Virtual Reality to support our young people to learn vocational skills is in development, and creating a database of locations for exploration using a 360 degree camera.

Nuno said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to be able to speak at the conference and share the successes we have had with Virtual Reality and how it has benefitted our young people – and what our plans are for the future.

“Virtual Reality is having a positive impact on our young people in their health, happiness, independence and skills for work – the four key aims we have for all young people at Prior’s Court.

“It is truly exciting to be able to use cutting edge technology like this and continue the legacy of our Founding Patron Dame Stephanie Shirley, an IT pioneer herself.”

Prior’s Court was shortlisted in the Innovator of the Year category in the 2021 Bett Awards for work being done with Virtual Reality.