Background: Many adolescents in special education are affected by anxiety in addition to their behavioral problems. Anxiety leads to substantial long-term problems and may underlie disruptive behaviors in the classroom as a result of the individual's inability to tolerate anxiety-provoking situations. Thus, interventions in special needs schools that help adolescents cope with anxiety and, in turn, diminish disruptive classroom behaviors are needed.
Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the effect of a virtual reality biofeedback game, DEEP, on daily levels of state-anxiety and disruptive classroom behavior in a clinical sample. In addition, the study also aimed to examine the duration of the calm or relaxed state after playing DEEP.
Methods: A total of 8 adolescents attending a special secondary school for students with behavioral and psychiatric problems participated in a single-case experimental ABAB study. Over a 4-week period, participants completed 6 DEEP sessions. In addition, momentary assessments (ie, 3 times a day) of self-reported state-anxiety and teacher-reported classroom behavior were collected throughout all A and B phases.
Results: From analyzing the individual profiles, it was found that 6 participants showed reductions in anxiety, and 5 participants showed reductions in disruptive classroom behaviors after the introduction of DEEP. On a group level, results showed a small but significant reduction of anxiety (d=-0.29) and a small, nonsignificant reduction of disruptive classroom behavior (d=-0.16) on days when participants played DEEP. Moreover, it was found that the calm or relaxed state of participants after playing DEEP lasted for about 2 hours on average.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the potential of the game, DEEP, as an intervention for anxiety and disruptive classroom behavior in a special school setting. Future research is needed to fully optimize and personalize DEEP as an intervention for the heterogeneous special school population.
- disruptive behavior
- single-case study
- applied game
- serious games
- special education
- attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- CHILDHOOD ANXIETY
- VIDEOGAME INTERVENTION
- EMOTION REGULATION