, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 105-120
Date: 08 Jul 2005

Robotic assistants in therapy and education of children with autism: can a small humanoid robot help encourage social interaction skills?

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Abstract

This article presents a longitudinal study with four children with autism, who were exposed to a humanoid robot over a period of several months. The longitudinal approach allowed the children time to explore the space of robot–human, as well as human–human interaction. Based on the video material documenting the interactions, a quantitative and qualitative analysis was conducted. The quantitative analysis showed an increase in duration of pre-defined behaviours towards the later trials. A qualitative analysis of the video data, observing the children’s activities in their interactional context, revealed further aspects of social interaction skills (imitation, turn-taking and role-switch) and communicative competence that the children showed. The results clearly demonstrate the need for, and benefits of, long-term studies in order to reveal the full potential of robots in the therapy and education of children with autism.