onderzoeker met vr bril op
onderzoeker met vr bril op

Interactieve virtual reality training

To improve Social Emotional Functioning in Adolescents with Developmental Language Disorders
1 September 2021 until 31 August 2024
Project member(s)
E. Arts (Elke) Prof. C.T.W.M. Vissers (Constance) , Prof.dr. Bram Orobio de Castro , dr. Ben Elsendoorn , dr. Ellen Luteijn
Project type

Children with Developmental Language Disorders (DLD) experience more difficulties in their social functioning, in comparison with their typically developing peers. Research suggests that there is not necessarily a direct link between the social problems and the impeding linguistic abilities. From a neuropsychological perspective, the difficulties in social functioning are the observable behaviour in adolescents with DLD. In contrast, underlying cognitive deficits like mentalization (Theory of Mind [ToM]), self-regulation (Executive Functioning [EF]), and Inner Speech (IS) may relate to this behaviour.
Treatment for adolescents with DLD usually focuses on improving oral and written language skills. Since the role between language and social functioning is complex, treatment should also target the cognitive processes (ToM, EF and IS) underlying social functioning, as an inter-functional approach. However, there is no appropriate ‘social intervention’ for adolescents with DLD yet. Additionally, social interventions for other neuropsychiatric disorders mainly consist of role-playing and hypothetical vignettes. This type of treatment is highly language-based and requires adequate mentalizing skills, which makes it difficult for adolescents with DLD.
Virtual Reality Intervention seems a promising technique to compensate for those linguistic and cognitive deficits in adolescents with DLD. Adolescents can practice their social and cognitive skills in controlled real-life situations, eliminating the need for adequate linguistic or mentalizing skills. Because of the controlled problem, children can repeat and rehearse their socio-communicative skills safely, contributing to their positive social experiences.
In this project, we want to fill the gap between observed problems in social functioning and recent intervention methods. The aim is to design a Virtual Reality program for adolescents with DLD to support and improve socio-communicative skills and reduce their behavioural problems. In this way, we will use a neuropsychological view, whereas trials in social functioning correlate with a complex interplay between deficits in ToM, EF and IS.
Een Virtual Reality Interventie lijkt een veelbelovende techniek om de talige en cognitieve tekortkomingen bij adolescenten met een TOS te compenseren. Adolescenten kunnen hun sociale en cognitieve vaardigheden oefenen in een gecontroleerde, realistische omgeving, zonder de noodzaak van adequate taal- of mentaliserende vaardigheden. Vanwege de gecontroleerde omgeving kunnen adolescenten hun sociaal-emotionele vaardigheden veilig herhalen en oefenen, wat kan bijdragen aan positieve ervaringen in sociale situaties.

In dit project streven we ernaar om de kloof tussen waargenomen problemen in sociaal-emotioneel functioneren en bestaande interventiemethoden te dichten. Het doel is om een Virtual Reality training te ontwerpen voor adolescenten met TOS om hun sociaal-emotionele vaardigheden te ondersteunen en te verbeteren.


The research was funded (in part) by NRO (the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research), and a subsidiary of NWO(the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) (Grant number: 4O.5.19630.066). Additional funding was provided by Royal Kentalis and the Behavioral Science Institute of Radboud University.


Contact information


  • E. Arts (Elke)