Posted in Robots, Robots & Autism (Children), Uncategorized

Robots and Autism (Children) Part 2

  • There is research focusing into mental healthcare has focused on robots as play partners who aid children in practicing or building clinically relevant skills, most often in children with ASD.  SAR are used along with human providers (e.g., therapists and research assistants) to increase engagement and offer additional opportunities for social interaction and skill building within an interaction.
  • SARs elicit positive social responses from children and are generally experienced as a novel and engaging addition to treatment.
  • Treatment potential for SAR in ASD surpasses simple novelty effects.
  • They can serve many different clinically relevant functions, including engaging children in tasks, modelling appropriate social cues (e.g., making eye contact), facilitating join attention tasks, and serving as partners for practicing critical social skills (e.g., taking turns in play).
  •  Given the wide range of functions that they can serve, it’s unsurprising that a diverse array of robots have been used in the extend literature.
  • Unlike the work exploring SAR as therapeutic companions (which focused on a relatively small number of robotic systems), this area includes robots that range from life-like humanoid robots to very simple caricatured designs.
  • Activities included in this area of research are usually designed to be fun and engaging and are often framed in terms of games.
  • SAR system included in the research are often used as therapeutic toys or as a therapeutic play partner.
  • Encouraging case study work speaks to the potential value of social robots in engaging children with ASD in joint attention activities.
  • In a series of case studies with young children with developmental disorders (including children specifically diagnosed with ASD), children were observed during interactions with a Keepon, small interactive robot.
  • From a design perspective, Keepon is quite simple; it resembles two tennis balls, one resting atop the other, and its “head” has two eyes but no other facial features.
  • Including its pedestal, Keepon is about 10 in. in height.
  • In spite of this simple design, Keepon can express attention (by orienting its face and eyes towards different objects) as well as emotional states (by bouncing up and down in pleasure or excitement).
  • Over several months of interactions with Keepon, young children (i.e., toddlers and preschoolers) displayed increased social engagement with the robot.
    • Ex. The robot served as a focus of joint attention for a young child with ASD. When the robot moved, the child responded with looking and smiling at a parent and therapist.
  • The robot “imitated” the child’s behaviour, leading the child to share a social smile with a caregiver.
  • These relatively simple social gestures can be quite challenging to evoke in young children with ASD, and the potential value of simple robots like Keepon deserve additional experimental work in clinical populations.
  • Over several months of interactions with Keepon, young children (i.e., toddlers and pre-schoolers) displayed increased social engagement with the robot.
    • Ex. The robot served as a focus of joint attention for a young child responded with looking and smiling at a parent and therapist.

 

 

 

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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