Using a Humanoid Robot as a Complement to Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a Pilot Study
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Emerging evidence documents that social robots may increase motivation in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when participating in educational activities. This study reports on the results of a pilot test conducted in a public child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) aimed at exploring whether a social robot could increase engagement and learning achievement in two 9-year-old male children with ASD with accompanying intellectual disability, language and communication impairments, and low adaptive skills. Using an ABA1 single-case design, children participated in educational sessions targeting developmental and social skills (e.g., motor imitation, expressive/receptive language, spontaneous requests). The results indicated that interacting with a social robot enhanced engagement (d = 0.78) and goal achievement in one case (d = 2.19), and only goal achievement in the second case (d = 2). The results from the present investigation are discussed in light of their implications for the design of a more robust translational research protocol aimed at assessing the effectiveness of robot-based ASD intervention scenarios.
KeywordsRobotics Autism spectrum disorder Human-robot interaction Education
The authors wish to thank participants and their families for their invaluable contribution.
LD, MN, MCC: designed the study. LD: performed data analyses and wrote the paper. MN: collaborated on data analyses and conducted the interventions. DT, MM, AR: collaborated for the design, staging, and writing up of the study. PB, EH: collaborated for the writing and editing of the final manuscript.
This study has been conducted in connection with the Educational Robotics for Students with Learning Disabilities (EDUROB) project (543577-LLP-1-2013-1-UK-KA3-KA3MP) and “Progetto di sviluppo e diffusione di competenze su Ausili Informatici e Tecnologie di supporto ai Disturbi della comunicazione nei Disturbi Pervasivi dello Sviluppo e della Disabilità Intellettiva” (Regione Emilia Romagna – Azienda USL Bologna).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Informed Consent Statement
All parents of participating children signed a written informed consent.
The study was approved by the Ethical Committee of the Bologna Local Health Trust (Comitato Etico Interaziendale Bologna-Imola) and has been assigned number CE 16022.
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