WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) -- Autistic adults who converse with a virtual partner may develop better social interaction skills, U.S. researchers suggest.
Cheryl Trepagnier and Corinne Bell, both of The Catholic University of America, Dale Olsen and Laura Boteler, both of SIMmersion LLC -- a software development company that creates human interaction simulations -- say more than half of those diagnosed with autism have normal intellectual capabilities yet struggle when interacting and conversing with others.
The study authors said autistic study participants who were not otherwise intellectually disabled interacted with virtual partners, were given onscreen dialogue options, and were scored on their ability to initiate, maintain and conclude a pleasant conversation on various topics.
"Over the past two decades, simulations have proven effective at helping people with a variety of physical and mental disorders," Brenda K. Wiederhold, editor in chief of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, said in a statement.
"This new application could make it so many with autism spectrum disorder could function more effectively in the larger world."
The findings are published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.