Start Beyond rolls out educational program for young autistic adults

Angus Stevens, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder at Start Beyond
Angus Stevens, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder at Start Beyond

Start Beyond, Australia’s VR and AR reality studio, has created a world-first Virtual Reality program empowering therapists to individualise their treatment programs for autistic teens to help them face and engage in challenging social scenarios without the real-life emotional risk.

What is the product offering of Start Beyond’s program?

Engaged by UK and American based firm SocialWise VR, the groundbreaking learning program offers a suite of interactive, cinematic and immersive experiences where the teen can experience first-hand a variety of social interactions, from being at a party where they might be bullied or harassed to going on a date, all within the safety of the therapist environment.

The fully immersive program transports the user to a variety of highly realistic and challenging social scenarios, where they can choose from three responses when prompted. Depending on what answer is selected, they will either receive a neutral, negative or positive reaction.

One of the unique benefits of using SocialWise is that through the companion application therapists can watch how their customer is responding to the different situations remotely, offering just the same intimacy as a traditional therapy session in the same room would.

But this format allows therapists to provide even more thorough feedback and counsel to clients, where they can guide them through challenges and explain why they received certain reactions for the responses chosen. Ultimately equipping autistic teenagers with crucial social communication and interaction skills to take away and apply to real world scenarios.

Why is the SocialWise program a timely intervention?

Following a successful pilot launch overseas, Start Beyond Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Angus Stevens is very passionate about bringing this program to Australia where it is estimated that 1 in 100 people are on the autism spectrum (over 200,000 people).

In 2015, over half (55.8%) of young people with autism needed special tuition and 41.8% needed help from a counsellor or disability support person. SocialWise VR could assist these young Aussies in overcoming the challenges they face in society, allowing a safe avenue to navigate interactions and come away feeling confident and included in everyday life.

Angus Stevens, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Start Beyond, commented, “We are thrilled by the response and impact the SocialWise VR learning program has had so far overseas, which has provided autistic teenagers with an opportunity to experience real life scenarios without the physical and emotional stress of what reality actually entails.”

“Therapists have found that their clients are embracing the VR experience and report that it has become a powerful tool in the industry. We are excited to build a similar momentum for the Social Wise program in Australia, providing impactful support for teenagers on the autistic spectrum and also revolutionising the care therapists can provide through the metaverse.”

“What’s more, following the success of SocialWise and realising its impact and potential, the principles of the program can also be applied to a whole range of neurodiverse needs including anxiety disorders or mental health related concerns,” Angus Stevens added.

What does the program mean for SocialWise VR?

Jenifer Shahin, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of SocialWise VR
Jenifer Shahin, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of SocialWise VR

Jenifer Shahin, Co-founder of SocialWise VR said, “The SocialWise VR program was created to offer a safe space for learners and therapists to navigate complex and stressful scenarios together, allowing them to build emotional intelligence, without the emotional risk. Our partnership with Start Beyond allows us to provide this platform with their software design being fully inclusive of all the unique components necessary to achieve this unique outcome.”

“As we are testing this product we find that students are excited to use this curriculum, feel more confident about what to expect in the real world and feel better equipped to navigate high-stress, novel experiences. We are excited to roll this program out more widely and help support even more Neurodiverse people who struggle with everyday social interactions.”