Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 48, Issue 11, pp 3816–3830 | Cite as

Small-Group Technology-Assisted Instruction: Virtual Teacher and Robot Peer for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Mohammad Nasser SaadatziEmail author
  • Robert C. Pennington
  • Karla C. Welch
  • James H. Graham
Original Paper


The authors combined virtual reality technology and social robotics to develop a tutoring system that resembled a small-group arrangement. This tutoring system featured a virtual teacher instructing sight words, and included a humanoid robot emulating a peer. The authors used a multiple-probe design across word sets to evaluate the effects of the instructional package on the explicit acquisition and vicarious learning of sight words instructed to three children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the robot peer. Results indicated that participants acquired, maintained, and generalized 100% of the words explicitly instructed to them, made fewer errors while learning the words common between them and the robot peer, and vicariously learned 94% of the words solely instructed to the robot.


Autism spectrum disorder Virtual reality and pedagogical agents Social robotics Small-group instruction Observational learning Sight word instruction 



This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant BRIGE-1228027. This study is based on a doctoral dissertation by Mohammad Nasser Saadatzi at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Louisville.

Author Contributions

MNS conceptualized and designed the study, developed the tutoring system, conducted the experiment, analyzed the data, prepared the initial manuscript, and revised the final manuscript for important intellectual content. RCP made significant assistance in the conception and design of the study, contributed in the initial manuscript write-up, advised on the data analysis, and revised the manuscript for important intellectual content. Supervision and feedback throughout the study were provided by KCW and JHG.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Special Education and Child DevelopmentUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

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