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New NHS treatment helps children with autism overcome situation specific phobias

A study led by Dr Jeremy Parr and colleagues at Newcastle University has shown that psychological therapy delivered in a virtual reality environment  leads to significant improvements in tackling situation-specific fears and phobias for children with ASD. The therapy can have a lasting effect, with some young people found to have completely overcome their phobia even a year later.

The Blue Room provides an immersive virtual reality setting in which a therapist works with a young person on strategies to help deal with their specific anxiety, without the need for goggles or headsets. During therapy, images are projected onto the walls and ceiling of the 360 degree screened room to replicate the young person’s individual specific anxiety. Examples of situations and phobias that have been treated in the Blue Room include fear of dogs, going shopping and crossing a bridge.

The therapist and young person use a tablet computer to navigate through the scenario as they wish, building up the difficulty in small steps, whilst working on cognitive and behavioural strategies to help reduce anxiety. Parents/carers are able to watch and listen from another room, so they also learn about the strategies and how they can be implemented. A video showing the treatment can be found at

The Blue Room Treatment is provided by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust’s Complex Neurodevelopmental Disorders Service (CNDS) for Children and Young People in collaboration with Third Eye Technologies. The treatment consists of four personalised sessions at the facility in County Durham and is available for children with ASD aged 7-17 years inclusive. It is now available as an NHS service, with referrals from CAMHS teams, paediatricians and GPs accepted from all over the UK where funding is available from the child’s local Clinical Commissioning Group.

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Last modified: Mon, 07 Aug 2017 16:41:26 BST