Autism Approaches: Enhancing Skills With Virtual Reality And Motion Tracking Haptic Gloves

Background:

Thanks to an invaluable charitable contribution from The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, students at Sybil Elgar School are piloting the use of fully immersive and interactive virtual reality (VR) headsets, controllers, a 360-degree camera, and motion capture gloves with haptic feedback. Our students are now exploring virtual worlds beyond imagination, learning and developing through play, and pioneering the use of virtual glove technology in autism education.  

Formed in 1349, The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London originated from glove makers in the City aiming to safeguard the high standard of their craft. It received its Royal Charter from King Charles I in 1638. The Glovers' charitable giving includes a focus on the education and training of young people, exemplified by projects like the Sybil Elgar School’s VR initiative, which benefits autistic young people.  

Gloves have historically been used to warm, protect, enhance, or elevate the hands. With support from The Glovers, our school is proud to explore what 21st-century gloves can be used for, providing opportunities for our students to practice life-enhancing skills in a safe and familiar environment.  

In this talk, we will share our experiences so far with putting on the gloves of the future and getting virtual reality to work for autistic people. We will discuss the current shortcomings of the technology as applied to our educational setting, as well as our future plans for integrating it into our curriculum and therapeutic offerings. 

Speakers:

Tess Steventon is an Occupational Therapist who has worked in a variety of paediatric settings since 2010, both in the UK and Australia. She has a first-class honours degree in Occupational Therapy and has chosen to specialise in working with autistic children and young people. Tess joined the Sybil Elgar School team in 2015 and is currently the Senior OT. 

Tess is committed to a strengths-based approach to Occupational Therapy with a focus on supporting each individual to achieve their full potential. Tess has a keen interest in the transformative impact of technology on autistic children and young people’s lives and is excited by the variety of opportunities virtual reality presents to promote active engagement and develop skills.

Marius Byleveld is a musician, music teacher and consultant  with a particular interest in finding creative ways for autistic people to access curriculum subjects. He has been a performing and recording musician, holding a Bachelor's Degree in Jazz music. He started teaching music at Sybil Elgar School NAS in 2004, where he took on ambitious projects with his students and pioneered the teaching of GCSE music in the school. He obtained QTLS (Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills) through the recognition route and was manager for Sybil Elgar School Post-16 department between 2017-2019. Since then, he has played a leading role in specialist projects, such as integrating virtual reality technology into the curriculum.