Human–Robot Interaction in Autism Treatment: A Case Study on Three Pairs of Autistic Children as Twins, Siblings, and Classmates

Abstract

In this paper, three pairs of children with autism include a pair of twins, two siblings, and two classmates were enrolled in a 12-session robot-assisted group-games program. As many environmental factors were for the most part the same for the siblings as well as genetic factors for the twins, we were able to observe/compare the effect of the designed games on the participants individually and in paired-groups. The results indicated that all participants’ autism severity decreased after the course of the program. Improvement in social skills, social participation/avoidance, and detrimental social behaviors were also observed in the participants with high-functioning autism with close to being large Cohen’s d effect sizes. Moreover, based on the video coders’ observations the joint attention, gaze scores toward the robot, and verbal communications of the paired-groups increased significantly over the treatment time (\(p<0.05\)). However, in general, the designed program effect on the subjects’ behavior seems to be different for participants from different points on the autism spectrum; and even the high-functioning subjects showed different potential behavioral progress.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Autism Spectrum Disorders.

  2. 2.

    Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-Based Model.

  3. 3.

    Applied Behavioral Analysis.

  4. 4.

    Communication and Symbolic Behavioral Scales.

  5. 5.

    Early Social Communication Scales; a comprehensive clinical measure of joint attention behaviors, behavioral requests, and social interaction behaviors of children.

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Acknowledgements

Our profound gratitude goes to the “Center for the Treatment of Autistic Disorders (CTAD)” and its psychologists for their contributions to the clinical trials with the children with autism. This research was funded by the “Cognitive Sciences and Technology Council” (CSTC) of Iran (http://www.cogc.ir/) (Grant No. 103). We also appreciate the Iranian National Science Foundation (INSF) for their complementary support of the Social & Cognitive Robotics Laboratory (http://en.insf.org/).

Funding   This study was funded by the “Cognitive Sciences and Technology Council” (CSTC) of Iran.

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Correspondence to Ali Meghdari.

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Conflict of interest

Author Ali Meghdari has received research grants from the “Cognitive Sciences and Technology Council” (CSTC) of Iran. The authors Alireza Taheri, Minoo Alemi, and Hamidreza Pouretemad declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval for the protocol of this study was provided by Iran University of Medical Sciences (#IR.IUMS.REC.1395.95301469), and the certification for ABA and robot-assisted treatment with children with autism was received from the Center for the Treatment of Autistic Disorders (CTAD), Iran.

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Taheri, A., Meghdari, A., Alemi, M. et al. Human–Robot Interaction in Autism Treatment: A Case Study on Three Pairs of Autistic Children as Twins, Siblings, and Classmates. Int J of Soc Robotics 10, 93–113 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12369-017-0433-8

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Human–Robot interaction
  • Joint attention
  • Imitation
  • Humanoid robot
  • Social skills