A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2021 | Number 3, Volume 35

Virtual reality interventions appear effective for ASD

A new meta-analysis from Iran offers evidence that virtual reality (VR) programs are an effective intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 

Behnam Karami and colleagues reviewed 33 studies on the effects of VR and found that individuals undergoing VR training exhibited relatively large improvements. The strongest effect was for daily living skills, they say, while the effects for cognitive skills, emotion regulation and recognition, and social and communication skills were moderate. Overall, they say, VR appeared more beneficial to older children than younger ones, and less beneficial for individuals with comorbid disorders 

They add, “Comparing the results of the current meta-analysis with those of more conventional training programs, it is evident that VR-based training is at least as effective in most study endpoints as traditional programs.” 

The researchers also say that five studies on interventions using augmented reality— which involves virtual reality superimposed by virtual data—showed promising results. 

They caution, however, that while their study found strong effectiveness in uncontrolled trials, it found only moderate effectiveness in controlled trials. In addition, they say, most studies involved small and heterogenous groups of participants. Finally, they say, long-term assessments need to be conducted to see if the gains experienced by individuals with ASD who undergo VR training are lasting.


“Effectiveness of virtual/augmented reality– based therapeutic interventions on individuals with autism spectrum disorder: a comprehensive meta-analysis,” Behnam Karami, Roxana Koushki, Fariba Arabgol, Maryam Rahmani, and Abdol-Hossein Vahabie, Frontiers in Psychiatry, June 23, 2021 (free online). Address: Behnam Karami, School of Cognitive Sciences, Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences (IPM), Tehran, Iran.