Mentoring adults with ASD in 3D virtual environments

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Autism is a reality (Breakey 2006) for a significant number of people, 1 in 100 in UK are currently diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorders).

‘High-functioning’ adults with autism can be found working in demanding roles, leading to unrealistic expectations being placed on them at work (Johnson & Joshi 2015). Meltdowns, the term used when sensory overload, anxiety or frustration leads to uncontrollable behaviour, can be viewed as highly socially disruptive (Johnson & Joshi 2015). This often leads to people with autism being labelled as challenging, and forms part of the stereotypical assumptions about people with ASD.

Difficulties with social communication are presented as the inability to understand sarcasm and jokes, metaphors and idioms and in reading body language. People with ASD can appear insensitive due to the difficulty they experience with recognising emotions, their own and those of others. All of which can make workplaces extremely difficult to navigate for people with ASD.

Virtual worlds offer a place where difficulties with social communication are reduced, as it eliminates issues with body language and eye contact which might be challenging for mentees in a face to face setting, making them ideal environments for work-based mentoring. Mentors and mentees have the option of using instant messaging rather than voice and we have found that this reduces anxiety, and provides more time for the mentee to respond to questions.  And well designed virtual spaces have a calming effect, which helps mentor and mentee build trust and rapport.

We expect virtual work-based training academies to be a positive development for employees with ASD, helping them get the most of out work-based learning.


Breakey C., (2006) Autism Spectrum & Further Education: A Guide to Good Practice, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Johnson T., Joshi A., (2015) Dark Clouds or Silver Linings? A Stigma Threat Perspective on the Implications of an Autism Diagnosis for Workplace Well-Being Journal of Applied Psychology Online



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