Virtual Reality Headsets Help Neurodiverse Youth Soar

Each year, the National Benevolent Association invites congregations and ministries to apply for a Mission & Ministry Grant. These grants are reserved specifically for projects that will impact older adults as well as historically excluded youth and young adults. Below is a story from a grantee who received funds for their work in 2021.  

When Woodhaven applied for a Mission & Ministry Grant, they hoped to receive funding to introduce virtual reality to their programming.

Located in Columbia, Missouri, Woodhaven is a community of people working together to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities succeed. They do this by providing community-based support to more than 100 people. Their programming allows opportunities for skill-building and engagement within the Columbia community. They empower young adults with autism to learn hard and soft skills and work toward meaningful enrichment and employment in tech-based career paths through their EnCircle Technologies program.

The grant they received from NBA in 2021 allowed them to pursue their mission in new and exciting ways. The organization used its funds to purchase Oculus 2 headsets. These headsets allow users to participate in virtual worlds and experiences via games, live events, and physical activities.

After spending a few months getting to experience the benefits of the Oculus 2, Tara Shade, Woodhaven’s Director of Community Employment Services and EnCircle Technologies, shared how the addition of these tools has impacted the technology program at Woodhaven.

Oculus 2 headset.
Oculus 2 headset.

“Since receiving the Oculus 2 headsets our EnCircle Technologies program was able to acquire with the grant, we have been able to open up even more classes to our students. In the fall of 2021, we were able to hold a ‘Exploring Virtual Reality’ workshop to help our students learn how to use the headsets. We were able to acquire two driving simulators and will be able to use the headsets for driving classes.

Many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find the thought of practicing driving on the road to be too overwhelming. The headsets and simulators will allow students to practice their driving skills in a safe environment and prepare for street driving.

Another great outcome of having the Oculus headsets is the ability to use Healium for anxiety reduction. We have had both students and personnel use Healium and have wonderful outcomes.  Anxiety and overstimulation are very common with individuals with ASD and the ability to help manage this on the premises is very valuable!”

Are you interested in receiving grant funds for your health and social service project? Consider applying for a Mission & Ministry Grant here