Headshot of Sean Smith sits next to a photo of cut up fried chicken.

Cluckin’ About Virtual Reality and Social Skills

CIDDL Cizzles with Chef Sean Smith

Author: Samantha Goldman

Dr. Sean Smith, Professor in special education at the University of Kansas (KU), and his son Nolan, a freshman at KU, “cluck” about using virtual reality (VR) for social skills instruction and practice while making one of Nolan’s favorites, chicken nuggets. Dr. Smith shared VOISS, a virtual reality (VR) experience he developed with Amber Rowland, Bruce Frey, Justin Elhrich, Adam Carreon, and Maggie Mosher. This VR experience allows students to practice learned social skills in a safe environment. Nolan expressed that using this tool makes you feel like everything is happening in real life, like you’re really there.

Virtual Reality Opportunities to Implement Social Skills

The VOISS curriculum and VR learning experience is focused on developing knowledge and acquisition of the skills for middle schools with social skills deficits, autism, and intellectual disabilities, but has been used across the gradespan. The program is centered around 10 social skills domains and allows the users to practice each specific skill in a variety of virtual settings across the learning environment. Skills include self-awareness and advocacy, critical thinking, receptive communication, self-care and safety, to name a few. The program can be run on a less immersive environment (e.g., iPad, Chromebook) or Oculus, a fully immersive environment which more schools are beginning to acquire with the rise of VR.

While demoing the tool, Dr. Smith explained that it provides immediate feedback in a safe way that allows for users to practice interactions in a way that couldn’t be done in real life. It allows for mistakes and gives the opportunity to try again. The takeaway is that VOISS uses social situations and scenarios to effectively teach social skills and gives individuals the opportunity to practice them.

Why chicken nuggets?

Chicken strips are a social food that is easy to eat with your fingers and can be found at most social events. They are easy to make, and it’s a great fine motor and sensory activity. Dr. Smith concluded by sharing that chicken strips are inherently social. Making them can be a social experience too. Each person can have their own role. Also, they can be served in so many ways like by themselves or with a salad, and at so many different occasions, from parties to sporting events.

Be sure to watch Dr. Smith’s full Cizzle to learn more about VOISS and its uses. Make sure you check out the VOISS presentation, to learn more! The competition isn’t over yet! After you finish watching, you are invited to be a judge of the Cizzle by rating the chef in the areas of connection, preparation, and aesthetics using theCIDDL Cizzle Rating System at the bottom of the page. More CIDDL Cizzles can be found on the CIDDL Events webpage. Check out the CIDDL website for more resources related to the innovative uses of technology in special education and related services personnel preparation programs.

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