Analysis of the use of a robot to improve social skills in children with autism spectrum disorder


Res. Biomed. Eng.




Abstract Introduction Autism Spectrum Disorder is a set of developmental disorders that imply in poor social skills, lack of interest in activities and interaction with people. Treatments rely on teaching social skills and in such therapies robotics may offer aid. This work is a pilot study, which aims to show the development and usage of a ludic mobile robot for stimulating social skills in ASD children. Methods A mobile robot with a special costume and a monitor to display multimedia contents was designed to interact with ASD children. A mediator controls the robot’s movements in a room prepared for interactive sessions. Sessions are recorded to assess the following social skills: eye gazing, touching the robot and imitating the mediator. The interaction is evaluated using the Goal Attainment Scale and Likert scale. Ten children were evaluated (50% with ASD), using as inclusion criteria children with age 7-8, without use of medication, and without tendency to aggression or stereotyped movements. Results It was observed that the ASD group touched the robot about twice more in average than the control group (CG). They also looked away and imitated the mediator in a quite similar way as the CG, and showed extra social skills (verbal and non-verbal communication). These results are considered an advance in terms of improvement of social skills in ASD children. Conclusions Our studies indicate that the robot stimulated social skills in 4/5 of the ASD children, which shows that its concepts are useful to improve socialization and quality of life.

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