Universal Access in the Information Society

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 105–120 | Cite as

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

  • B. RobinsEmail author
  • K. Dautenhahn
  • R. Te Boekhorst
  • A. Billard
Long paper


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.


Autism therapy Longitudinal study Robotic assistant Imitation Social interaction 



We are grateful to the teaching staff, parents, and children at Bentfield Primary school where the main study reported in this paper was carried out. Many thanks to the headteacher, Mr. Draper, for his continued support. Previous trials mentioned were conducted with the support of the carers and teachers at Colnbrook School and Radlett Lodge School. We would like to thank three anonymous reviewers for very constructive and helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Robins
    • 1
    Email author
  • K. Dautenhahn
    • 1
  • R. Te Boekhorst
    • 1
  • A. Billard
    • 2
  1. 1.Adaptive Systems Research Group, School of Computer ScienceThe University of HertfordshireHertfordshireUK
  2. 2.EPFLLausanneSwitzerland

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