Posted in Robots, Robots & Autism (Children)

Children and Autism (Robots) Part 4

  • Among the issues to consider in using SAR in these types of therapeutic play situations is how or why these robots may be particularly helpful clinical tools for children with ASD.
  • Robots themselves can serve to both elicit social behaviour from children as well as reward the behaviour when it occurs.
  • Considering the interaction within the robots as being rewarding unto itself, one can imagine how SARs could be integrated into clinically relevant tasks for children in ways that are fun and engaging while also meaningfully targeting relevant problem behaviours.
  • A small pilot study for Children with ASD provides relevant information. The study used Probo, an animal-like robot with a trunk like an elephant and an emotionally expressive face.
  • Probo was integrated into Social Stories, short scenarios are written or personalized for children with ASD, with the goal to improve understanding of specific, challenging social situations, and are typically delivered by a human therapist.
  • In Social Stories, short scenarios are written or personalized for children with ASD, with the goal to improve understanding of specific, challenging social situations, and are typically delivered by a human therapist.
  • In recent adaption of the program, Probo was used to deliver Social Stories and, in a series of single-class studies, Probo and a human therapist were compared in their delivery of the treatment.
  • Children responded positively to both treatment platforms (human and SAR). Interestingly, child performance on the behaviours specifically targeted in the Social Stories improved significantly more following the robotic intervention.
  • As the example with Probo highlights, SAR research in mental healthcare is truly an emerging literature. This work is characterized by small studies (e.g., case studies, pilot research), with restricted samples and in limited settings (e.g., laboratories, long-term care facilities), and frequently without adequate methodological controls and comparison conditions.
  • Even studies that employ a randomized and controlled design often include small sample sizes, leaving open the possibility that some failures to note significant difference could be due to inadequate power.
  • From a clinical perspective, no work to date has indicated lasting clinically relevant changes as a result of interactions with SAR systems.

 

Rabbitt, S. M., Kazdin, A. E., & Scassellati, B. (2015). Integrating socially assistive robotics into mental healthcare interventions: Applications and recommendations for expanded use. Clinical Psychology Review, 35, 35–46. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2014.07.001

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