Reference Work Entry

Comprehensive Guide to Autism

pp 411-422

Clinical Applications of Robots in Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis and Treatment

  • Joshua J. DiehlAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame Email author 
  • , Charles R. CrowellAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame
  • , Michael VillanoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame
  • , Kristin WierAffiliated withSonya Ansari Center for Autism
  • , Karen TangAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Notre Dame
  • , Laurel D. RiekAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Notre Dame

Abstract

Advances in socially assistive robotics have the potential to promote innovation in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research has revealed that individuals with ASD (1) show strengths in understanding the physical, object-related world and weaknesses in understanding the social world, (2) are more responsive to feedback given by a computer than a human, and (3) are more interested in treatment involving technology/robots. These findings suggest that a co-robot therapist may be an important addition to clinical assessment and/or therapy if it can emulate certain human therapist functions. Still, the majority of research in this area to date has focused on the development of technology, with scant attention paid to best practice clinical approaches. Therefore, the clinical use of robots for ASD should be considered an experimental approach to diagnosis and/or treatment until rigorous clinical trials are conducted and replicated. The end of this section includes a roadmap for future research on the clinical uses for robots in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with ASD. Crucially, clinical innovation must parallel technological innovation if this approach is to become an accepted diagnostic and/or treatment approach for ASD.