A Robot-Based Play-Drama Intervention May Improve the Joint Attention and Functional Play Behaviors of Chinese-Speaking Preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Pilot Study
Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have deficits in joint attention and play behaviors. We examined whether a robot-based play-drama intervention would promote these skills. Chinese-speaking preschool children were randomly assigned to an intervention group (N = 12) and a waitlist control group (N = 11). Children in the intervention group watched three robot dramas and engaged in role-plays with both robots and human experimenters over the course of 9 weeks. There were significant improvements in joint attention initiations and functional play behaviors in the intervention group. Parents of this group of children also reported less severe social impairments. It was therefore concluded that a robot-based play-drama intervention can enhance the joint attention and play behaviors of children with ASD.
KeywordsAutism Social robots Intervention Early childhood Joint attention Functional play
This research has been fully supported by grants awarded to the first author from the Office of Research and Knowledge Transfer Services (ORKTS) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund (SIE Fund) (Project No. KPF8146003). We are grateful for the help of our research assistants, Kit-Yi Wong, Fanny Lee, and Yik-Yu Mok. Special thanks go to all the participating children and their parents for their help and dedication to education.
WC designed the study. WC and CH wrote the article. WY programmed the robots. TW, WW, YH, KC, HC, and WW coded the data. All of the authors were affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, S.A.R., at the time of the study All authors are now affiliated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, S.A.R.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (Survey and Behavioural Research Ethics Reference No. 14600817) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Baron-Cohen, S. (1991). Precursors to a theory of mind: Understanding attention in others. Natural Theories of Mind: Evolution, Development and Simulation of Everyday Mindreading, 1, 233–251.Google Scholar
- Constantino, J. N., & Gruber, C. P. (2005). Social responsive scale (SRS) manual. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
- Corbett, B. A., Key, A. P., Qualls, L., Fecteau, S., Newsom, C., Coke, C., et al. (2016). Improvement in social competence using a randomized trial of a theatre intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46(2), 658–672.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Crystal, D. (1980). A first dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
- De la Cruz, R. E. (1995). The effects of creative drama on the social and oral language skills of with learning disabilities. Unpublished Doctorate Thesis, Illinois State University, USA.Google Scholar
- Hartmann, R. R. K., & Stork, F. C. (1972). Dictionary of language and linguistics. London: Applied Science.Google Scholar
- Kasari, C., Gulsrud, A., Freeman, S., Paparella, T., & Hellemann, G. (2012). Longitudinal follow-up of children with autism receiving targeted interventions on joint attention and play. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(5), 487–495.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Koegel, R. L., & Koegel, L. K. (2006). Pivotal response treatments for autism: Communication, social, & academic development. Baltimore: Paul H Brookes Publishing.Google Scholar
- Lang, R., O’Reilly, M., Sigafoos, J., Lancioni, G. E., Machalicek, W., Rispoli, M., et al. (2009). Enhancing the effectiveness of a play intervention by abolishing the reinforcing value of stereotypy: A pilot study. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(4), 889–894.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Lord, C., Rutter, M., DiLavore, P., Risi, S., Gotham, K., & Bishop, S. (2012). Autism diagnostic observation schedule second edition (ADOS-2) manual (part 1): Modules 1-4. Torrance, CA: Western Psychological Services.Google Scholar
- McCune-Nicolich, L., & Fenson, L. (1984). Methodological issues in studying early pretend play (pp. 81–124). Developmental and Applied: Child’s Play.Google Scholar
- Miyamoto, E., Lee, M., Fujii, H., & Okada, M. (2005). How can robots facilitate social interaction of children with autism? Possible implications for educational environments. Lund: Lund University Cognitive Studies.Google Scholar
- Mullen, E. M. (1995). Mullen scales of early learning. Minnesota: American Guidance Service, U.S.A.Google Scholar
- Mundy, P., Hogan, A., & Doelring, P. (1996). A preliminary manual for the abridged Early Social Communication Scales. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami.Google Scholar
- Mundy, P., & Willoughby, J. (1996). Nonverbal communication, joint attention, and early socioemotional development. In M. Lewis & M. W. Sullivan (Eds.), Emotional development in atypical children (pp. 65–88). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Pei, M. A., & Gaynor, F. (1954). A dictionary of linguistics. New York: Philosophical Library.Google Scholar
- Ricks, D. J., & Colton, M. B. (2010, May). Trends and considerations in robot-assisted autism therapy. In IEEE Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010 IEEE International Conference on (pp. 4354–4359). IEEE.Google Scholar
- Sigman, M., Ruskin, E., Arbelle, S., Corona, R., Dissanayake, C., Espinosa, M., et al. (1999). Continuity and change in the social competence of children with autism, Down syndrome, and developmental delays. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 64, 1–114.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- So, W. C., Wong, M. K. Y., Lam, W. Y., Cheng, C. H., Ku, S. Y., Lam, K. Y., et al. (2019). Who is a better teacher for children with autism? Comparison of learning outcomes between robot-based and human-based interventions in gestural production and recognition. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 86, 62–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- So, W. C., Wong, M. K. Y., Lam, W. Y., Cheng, C. H., Yang, J. H., Huang, Y., et al. (2018a). Robot-based intervention may reduce delay in the production of intransitive gestures in Chinese-speaking preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder. Molecular Autism, 9(1), 34.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Werry, I., Dautenhahn, K., Ogden, B., & Harwin, W. (2001). Can social interaction skills be taught by a social agent? The role of a robotic mediator in autism therapy. In M. Beynon, C. L. Nehaniv, & K. Dautenhahn (Eds.), Cognitive technology: Instruments of mind (pp. 57–74). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar