Can avatars help socially-awkward students adjust?

Too much Freaks and Geeks on the mind this AM. A new program helps kids interact via avatars:

The simulation, designed for children ages 8 to 12, allows clinicians to play the roles of the avatars while the children sit at a computer in a different room and respond to situations they encounter routinely. The children practice greetings, giving and receiving compliments, being assertive and asking and answering questions.

Slate, of course, has an obvious caveat:

Yet even if used primarily to drill techniques first introduced in a real-world context, it’s unclear whether avatars are as effective as actual people in helping kids along the path to socialization. “The best way to teach social confidence is through interaction with friendly, non-anxious peers,” says Wong. For the clinic, however, those situations prove expensive and hard to coordinate.