One of the essential questions that arise when working with virtual reality (VR) tools is: does an improvement in playing indicate an improvement in the child’s ability outside the virtual environment? How can we help the child transfer the acquired abilities from the virtual to the real environment?
As an occupational therapist, I believe that functional transference can happen spontaneously from the child’s feeling of competence and the therapeutic interaction. Nevertheless, that is not enough and we, the therapists, have the responsibility to support the child in ensuring that the skills can and will be useful in other settings outside the therapy session.
Working with VR is a multi-stage process:
- Feeling success and competence in the VR environment focused on enhancing developmental abilities.
- Transference of the acquired skills and feeling of success from the virtual environment to the physical one.
- Transfer of the abilities to other environments – I’ll cover this one next week.
After the first stage, the child gets a feeling of success and competency we can detect an improvement in the virtual environment and we want to shift it to other contexts.
In the next stage, the functional transference from the virtual environment to the physical one, is an important stage and we can achieve it by:
- Establishing a connection between the game and a real activity.
Integrating contents from the virtual game in session; worksheets with similar content, activities in the therapy room that resemble activities from the games. For example: after playing “Balloons”, you can blow up balloons, paint them, and toss them around. When playing “Photo Album” you can give the children coloring pages and work on skills relate to that activity. You can also use the Timocco’s activity booklet for some fun activities.
- Adjust the game’s settings to the child’s ability, and later, practice in session.
The virtual environment allows flexibility in controlling the pace and frequency of the object appearance, an option that may be more difficult in the physical environment. For instance, when playing “Bubble Bath” you can control the difficulty level; in the “Easy” the bubble are static, but in “Advance” they move around the screen. In session we can play with real soap bubbles blowing and popping them, allowing concrete experiences to enable transference.
You can give the first steps a try this week, and next week I’ll explain how to transfer of the abilities to other environments.
Hope this helps,