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Interactive Technologies for Autistic Children: A Review

Abstract

Recently, there have been considerable advances in the research on innovative information communication technology (ICT) for the education of people with autism. This review focuses on two aims: (1) to provide an overview of the recent ICT applications used in the treatment of autism and (2) to focus on the early development of imitation and joint attention in the context of children with autism as well as robotics. There have been a variety of recent ICT applications in autism, which include the use of interactive environments implemented in computers and special input devices, virtual environments, avatars and serious games as well as telerehabilitation. Despite exciting preliminary results, the use of ICT remains limited. Many of the existing ICTs have limited capabilities and performance in actual interactive conditions. Clinically, most ICT proposals have not been validated beyond proof of concept studies. Robotics systems, developed as interactive devices for children with autism, have been used to assess the child’s response to robot behaviors; to elicit behaviors that are promoted in the child; to model, teach and practice a skill; and to provide feedback on performance in specific environments (e.g., therapeutic sessions). Based on their importance for both early development and for building autonomous robots that have humanlike abilities, imitation, joint attention and interactive engagement are key issues in the development of assistive robotics for autism and must be the focus of further research.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    a very simple language based on a list of simple everyday words, which uses speech, gesture, facial expression, body language, signs, symbols and words to aid communication.

  2. 2.

    When the child pushes one of the buttons, the robot blows bubbles while turning in place. When the child does not push one of the buttons, the robot does nothing (no bubbles, no turning).

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by a grant from the European Commission (FP7: Michelangelo under Grant agreement n 288241) and the fund “Entreprendre pour aider.” The funding agencies and the University were not involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the paper or the decision to submit the paper for publication. We would like to thank MICHELANGELO Study Group (S. Bonfiglio, K. Maharatna, E. Tamburini, A. Giuliano, M. Donnelly) for interesting discussions.

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Correspondence to Sofiane Boucenna.

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Boucenna, S., Narzisi, A., Tilmont, E. et al. Interactive Technologies for Autistic Children: A Review. Cogn Comput 6, 722–740 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12559-014-9276-x

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Keywords

  • Robotics
  • Children with autism
  • Joint attention
  • Imitation