Applications of Virtual Reality in Autism Research

Call for papers for: Journal of Enabling Technologies

Guest editors: Sarune Savickaite, Tom Arthur, Elliot Millington, Emma Hayashibara, Tammy-Ann Husselman, Rebecca Taylor


Immersive technologies like virtual- and augmented-reality are proposed to have “unique potential” for people on the autism spectrum (Parsons & Cobb, 2011). Virtual Reality (VR) research, specifically, has increased in the last decade exponentially. Though evidence has traditionally been lacking in this field, a recent conference organised by this prospective Editorial Panel ( signalled that such developments are beginning to provide a clear and focused area of research. Indeed, through uniting multidisciplinary studies under the shared theme of “Applications of Virtual Reality in Autism Research”, we can better evaluate the utility of virtual technologies to help us identify, understand and manage challenges experienced by autistic people. These challenges represent key priorities that have been expressed by the wider autism community. 

This Call for Papers seeks work from researchers who are utilising VR technologies in the context of autistic groups. Virtual Reality is a tool with great potential to improve research and practice for autistic people, bringing benefits such as increased immersion and data capture. The barrier to entry for researchers has generally been high, with technology being expensive and difficult to use. However, recent developments, especially the introduction of standalone head mounted displays, means that VR is much more accessible for researchers and users alike. The interdisciplinary nature of VR research with autistic groups means that manuscripts are spread over a wide range of specialist journals. This special issue will provide an opportunity to explore a range of work, from across disciplines, in a single special issue.  Therefore, we welcome submissions across a wide range of fields and scholarship. We are keen to encourage work that extends the boundaries of VR-based work in this field and that challenge the pre-existing paradigms in this area.     


We welcome submissions to this special issue and topics covered can include (but are not limited to):

  • Social versus medical models of disability (benefits of working within a social model of disability, moving away from the medical model);
  • Ethical issues in autism research – ethical inclusion of diverse participants (focus on strengths and needs defined by autistic individuals; training for parents and professionals);
  • Research into practice - building research into strategy and policy, informing practice (eg. focus on including demographics often excluded in VR and autistic-based research, such as young people, non-verbal autistics, older people), aligning interventions with priorities of the autism community (such as daily living);
  • Research addressing the lack of relevance in VR research to date, opportunities and pitfalls of VR in autism research; improving autism study design; increasing theory-informed design; validate assumptions (e.g. generalisations);
  • Inclusion of autistic users: increasing involvement of autistic individuals in the design of interventions (systematic research around adverse effects of VR; sensory issues, sickness, anxiety, reducing adverse effects;
  • Defining VR (differentiate and define different kinds of VR, aligning VR affordances with intervention outcomes (e.g. what is the technology capable of?
    • What are the intended outcomes?
    • How does the technology promote these intended outcomes?


Contributions may take the form of peer-reviewed research, opinion, commentary, and thought pieces; analysis and research from various disciplinary vantage points, from the theoretical, to the applied and the more practical, ‘hands-on-approach’. Self-reflective contributions are also most welcome.  Word count for peer-reviewed research should aim not exceed 6000 words (exc. references) while opinion pieces, case studies and others can be anywhere from 1500 words upwards.   


Deadline and Submission Details

The submission deadline is 31st January 2022.

To submit your research, please visit the following link making sure to select the “autism and VR” option when submitting via ScholarOne:

To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit:


Contact the Special Issue team:

Sarune Savickaite [email protected] (University of Glasgow representative)

Tom Arthur [email protected] (University of Exeter and University of Bath representative)