Navigation Links
Avatars may help children with social anxiety overcome fears
Date:6/12/2012

A principal standing in the hallway says, "You are one of my favorite students!" In class, a smart girl says, "You are the nicest person in our class!"

Many children would smile and eagerly return those compliments, but some with social anxiety may be too terrified to respond.

Researchers at the University of Central Florida's Anxiety Disorders Clinic and the Atlanta-based company Virtually Better want to give more children with social anxiety the practice they need to become comfortable in social situations. They have developed a new, one-of-a-kind computer simulation program that enables children to interact with avatars playing the roles of classmates, teachers and a principal.

The simulation, designed for children ages 8 to 12, allows clinicians to play the roles of the avatars while the children sit at a computer in a different room and respond to situations they encounter routinely. The children practice greetings, giving and receiving compliments, being assertive and asking and answering questions.

"These kids come in and say, 'I don't know how to make a friend,'" said Deborah Beidel, director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic and a psychology professor at UCF. "We have to teach them the skills that most people learn from being around other people."

The National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, provided a $500,000 grant to fund the development of the software and a 12-week study that will begin this summer. The study will involve 30 Central Florida children ages 8 to 12.

Many children are nervous and slow to warm up in new social situations, but those with social anxiety disorders have severe distress that doesn't go away, Beidel said.

"If a fear is so severe that it prevents a child from doing something he or she should be doing, such as going to school, playing on a sports team, being in a dance recital, going to birthday parties or making friends, then a parent should call a mental health professional," she said.

Under Beidel's leadership, the UCF Anxiety Disorders Clinic has treated children with anxiety disorders for five years. The clinic offers what Beidel calls the "gold standard" of treatments. Children with anxiety disorders are paired with socially comfortable peers for outings to places such as bowling alleys, restaurants and miniature golf courses.

The new study will give parents multiple treatment options at UCF. But parents in most communities aren't so fortunate. Many clinicians who treat children don't have the time or resources to recruit socially comfortable children and organize regular outings. Guiding clients through a simulation in the office may be the only feasible solution for them.

The simulation features a realistic school setting, designed with the help of elementary school teachers. The pre-programmed responses of the avatar classmates which include a cool girl, a smart girl and a bully -- were recorded by children to ensure the language reflects how they talk.

"The most important thing is that this was designed by clinicians with a very specific intention to help people get better. That's the big difference between this and a game, and there is nothing like this on the market," said Josh Spitalnick, clinical psychologist and director of research and clinical services at Virtually Better, an Atlanta-based company bringing interactive technologies to behavioral healthcare for treatment and training.

The six characters and the varying levels of difficulty in the simulation allow clinicians to design scenarios appropriate for their patients. More challenging scenarios include dealing with a bully who is demanding that a child give up some of her lunch money.

If the initial trial goes well, researchers hope to conduct a yearlong trial with more children. If that is successful, the simulation could then become available to clinicians. The program eventually could be expanded to include other settings, such as playgrounds, and to serve other children who need help improving social skills.


'/>"/>

Contact: Chad Binette
chad.binette@ucf.edu
407-823-6312
University of Central Florida
Source:Eurekalert  

Related medicine news :

1. IntegraGen launches ARISk test, a genetic screening tool for autism in high-risk children
2. In children born with severe heart defect, surgical management has little effect on neuro outcomes
3. Children Born to Obese Moms May Face Higher Autism Risk: Study
4. Supporting LGB children may influence their long-term health, BU study finds
5. Out-of-hand tree nut consumption associated with better diet quality in children and adults
6. BASPCAN - UK-wide increase in number of children
7. Nearly 1 in 4 grandparents store prescription medicines where children can easily find them
8. U.S. Children Exposed to Hours of Background TV Daily
9. Leaders in childrens health to gather in Boston
10. Dietary changes help some children with ADHD
11. Bullied Children at Greater Risk for Self-Harm, Study Finds
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Avatars may help children with social anxiety overcome fears
(Date:4/29/2016)... Georgia (PRWEB) , ... April 29, 2016 , ... On ... rural hospitals across the Southeast, celebrated the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal on SB ... Rep. Geoff Duncan (R - Cumming), offers a 70% tax credit to individuals and ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... Fort Stewart, GA (PRWEB) , ... April 29, 2016 , ... ... on Monday, May 16, 2016, at its new location in the Exchange Furniture Mall ... including a raffle for a 50-inch Samsung Smart TV. Plus attendees will have the ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... World Patent Marketing , ... exercise invention which aids in proper muscle development. , "The Gym & Exercise ... Director of World Patent Marketing. "Globalization has threatened the future growth of the ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... April 29, 2016 , ... Reltok Nasal ... and products for the head and neck/ear, nose and throat specialty, has added the ... The KOTLER NASAL AIRWAY™ is a newly patented safety device secured by ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... CURE ... entirely on patients with cancer, today announced that Lynne Malestic, RN, of Eisenhower ... 2016 CURE® Extraordinary Healer® for Oncology Nursing , which honors nurses who have ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:4/28/2016)... April 28, 2016  The blood testing market in ... according to Kalorama Information and The Freedonia Group in ... nucleic acid testing.  The healthcare research firm said that ... developing blood collection stations and in improving testing at ... Information,s report, Blood Testing Market in China ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... 28, 2016 Dr. Vivek Ahuja ... and Ste phen Schmidt ... leading provider of cloud-based software solutions for life sciences, today announced ... bring a wealth of insight to a growing business.  This will ... George Phillips joined ArisGlobal in the position of ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... April 28, 2016  ValGenesis, Inc., the ... Solutions (VLMS) today announced that a prominent ... sufferers of chronic kidney failure has selected ... their corporate validation process. The global medical ... solution to manage their validation processes electronically. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: