According to the Virtual Reality Society, “virtual reality” is a “three-dimensional, [computer-generated] environment [that] can be explored and interacted with by a person.” VRS reports that virtual reality is usually created using a variety of technology like headsets, specialized gloves and treadmills.
A virtual reality arcade in Idaho called VR1 has found that its offerings not only attract serious gamers, but also provide enrichment to those with autism and other developmental disabilities. KIVITV.com reports that they offer “exposure therapy” to customers with specific fears like those of spiders or heights as well as a variety of virtual experiences for children with autism.
In one example, a young child whose autism caused social problems, including a fear of traveling, spent months using virtual reality to simulate airplane travel. He was ultimately able to take a real plane trip for the first time to visit a relative and his experience was positive because of the preparation through virtual reality. The boy has continued to use the technology to assist him with “other everyday situations, like socializing and problem solving.”
His father reports that the experiences using virtual reality calm the child. The dad founded an organization called Autism XR Institute that is working with the arcade to further create opportunities for growth and learning for people with autism using virtual reality.
Parents and other family members of people with autism and other intellectual disabilities may have interest in exploring this possibility. Many people with disabilities are on public benefits that require them to keep a low level of income and assets to maintain eligibility. Special-needs trusts and ABLE accounts are tools for directing money toward bettering these people’s lives without jeopardizing eligibility for Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.
Membership at an arcade that offers helpful virtual reality programming or even purchasing the technology are likely appropriate kinds of purchases to benefit a disabled beneficiary of such accounts.