You are viewing the website for the aac-rerc, which was funded by NIDRR from 2008-2013.
For information on the new RERC on AAC, funded by NIDILRR from 2014-2019, please visit

Virtual Environment for Enhancing Communication and Learning

Howard Shane

(Children's Hospital Boston)


This project seeks to create a web-based virtual environment to support language and communication that can be customized for individual learners. Language concepts associated with different settings will be highlighted as a learner navigates through this virtual world. The development process will entail the building of an expandable virtual environment, the creation of mentoring characters, and the use of a virtual environment as an AAC device.

virtual environment


• To create an expandable virtual learning environment to teach language skills and communication;

• To conduct outcome studies that will guide development of virtual environments;

• To research the efficacy of electronic media to teach hard-to-learn language concepts such as verbs, prepositions, and question forms.


• Establish settings (e.g., kitchen, riding rink, bathroom, pizza parlor) where language concepts associated with setting will be taught

• Create engaging (effective) mentoring characters • Investigate attractiveness of mentoring characters to potential learners

• Finalize learning content

• Expand language learning beyond labeling

• Recruit subjects on autism spectrum

• Test concept acquisition within each environment

• Study efficacy of entire application

Knowledge Transfer


Howard Shane,      Meghan Obrien

Visual Immersion Program (VIP) for Individuals with Autism

Howard Shane and Meghan O'Brien (Children's Hospital Boston) discuss the use of the Visual Immersion Program to teach expression and receptive language skills to individuals with autism.



Shane, H.C. (March, 2009). Use of electronic media to promote acquisition of hard to learn language concepts. Presentation at Current Trends in Autism Conference, Claremont, CA.

Shane, H.C. (June, 2009). Does animation improve the acquisition of hard to learn language concepts? Presentation at Milestones Conference, Cleveland, Ohio.

Shane, H., Laubscher, E., Sorce, J., Schlosser, R. W., Abramson, J., Flynn, S. (November, 2010). Effects of a Visual Immersion Experience on Communication in Autism. Presentation at the American Speech Language and Hearing Association Conference,Phildelphia, PA. (handout)