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Disabil Rehabil. 2015;37(17):1591-8. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2015.1052577. Epub 2015 May 29.

Virtual worlds for people with autism spectrum disorder: a case study in Second Life.

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School of Business and Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Strategy and Finance, Buskerud and Vestfold University College , Hønefoss , Norway and.



The purpose of this study is to explore the use of virtual worlds by people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with a particular focus on the virtual world Second Life™.


Case study methodology was selected to explore the experiences of Wolf, a participant with ASD, in Second Life. Wolf participated in three in-depth interviews. The interviews were analyzed using a content analysis to identify themes and sub-themes.


Analysis identified four main themes: social factors and communication, empowerment, virtual world versus physical world, and social cues and body language.


Anecdotally Wolf's experiences suggest that people with ASD enjoy using a virtual world and may feel more comfortable communicating in the virtual world context than the physical world. Virtual worlds offer a venue for people with ASD to be a part of a virtual society, lowers communication barriers experienced in the physical world, and gives the participant a unique opportunity to create and maintain friendships. Virtual worlds offer an arena for people with ASD to meet their peers on equal terms, not being dependent on social cues, which in the physical world can be a barrier for communication for this group. Further research in this area is required.


Asperger’s; autism; autism spectrum disorder; social media; virtual worlds

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