DESTIN — The Northwest Florida community can experience symptoms of autism firsthand thanks to virtual reality at the Destin Library.
Okaloosa County school resource officers were the first to use the autism simulator in December through the virtual reality technology called Oculus Rift.
Megan Fontaine, administrative assistant at the Destin Library, said the simulation allows individuals to experience over-stimulation, similar to those diagnosed with autism.
The Oculus Rift transports viewers to a coffee shop where the wallpaper designs spin, bright colors overpower their vision, the fireplace grows uncontrollably and a cell phone rings violently.
"It was developed to be extremely intrusive to those who are neurotypical," Fontaine said. "It's designed to take someone who is not autistic and get them up to the level of excitement and over-stimulation someone who has autism might experience in an unfamiliar environment."
The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, local fire departments and Okaloosa County EMS have already used the simulation while receiving sensitivity training, according to Fontaine.
She said the Destin Library is now working to purchase the extended package of the program, which includes a classroom and bus stop simulation. The library staff hope to offer the program to local school districts to help train teachers and staff.
"Especially given the current climate in Okaloosa County, we feel it's important to do everything we can to help our educators interact with their students in a positive way," Fortaine said.
"Hopefully for school year 2018-19 we will be able to reach out to schools and say we have a classroom simulation they can offer as training for teachers. That would be the epitome of utility for this system."