International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 595–605 | Cite as

Developing Joint Attention for Children with Autism in Robot-Enhanced Therapy

  • Daniel O. David
  • Cristina A. CostescuEmail author
  • Silviu Matu
  • Aurora Szentagotai
  • Anca Dobrean


Social difficulties is a core symptom of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One of the main psychological factors supposed to underlie these difficulties is the lack or low levels of joint attention (JA) with the interaction partners. The use of a social robot in ASD interventions has received a lot of attention in the last years. The main objective of this research is to investigate if the JA performance of ASD children is dependent on the social cues that the robot uses in the therapy sessions. Three different types of social cues are adopted: gaze orientation, pointing and vocal instruction. Furthermore, our study aims also to investigate if the robot-enhanced treatment produces similar patterns in comparison with a standard human treatment. For testing our hypothesis, we have used a single case design involving five children with ASD who received 20 intervention sessions. The results pointed to a very consistent pattern across all types of sessions: using more cues for prompting JA increases the performance of the children. These findings emphasize the importance of using more cues, such as pointing, for increasing engagement and performance engagement in a child–robot interaction session.


Joint-attention Robot-enhanced therapy Autism spectrum disorder Cognitive-behavioral therapy 



We are thankful for the financial support provided by the European Commission under the Programme EU FP7 ICT-2013.2.1, within the DREAM Project (”Development of Robot-Enhanced therapy for children with AutisM spectrum disorder”). Grant Agreement No. 611391.

Funding This study was funded by European Commission through the 7th Framework Programme Project “Development of Robot-Enhanced therapy for children with AutisM spectrum disorders” (DREAM;, Grant Agreement No. 611391.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel O. David
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cristina A. Costescu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Silviu Matu
    • 1
  • Aurora Szentagotai
    • 1
  • Anca Dobrean
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and PsychotherapyBabeş-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania
  2. 2.Department of Oncological SciencesIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

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