Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can often experience an information overload when they interact with people. Therefore, they can find social interaction threatening, making them withdraw, even from family members.
It has been declared that robots are able to engage children with ASD in social tasks. These outcomes are hypothesized to be the result of several strengths the robots have, in comparison with human interaction partners. They express human-like behaviors, but these behaviors can be break down in small pieces and presented only partially, repeatable and less intense to the children with ASD. This makes communication, with all its complex and frightening subtleties and nuances, less complicated and more comfortable for them.

Aim was to investigate if a social robot is able to trigger joint attention (JA) in young children with ASD. 25 children were exposed to a JA task with respectively, a therapist and a robot. It was examined if the children differed in the way how they follow the gaze, alternate eye-contact, share social information with the two partners.

Participants achieved significantly higher JA performance with the human partner compared to the robot.

Our outcomes are in contradiction with existing research and suggest to be more cautious in promoting or using robotic tools when training JA for children with ASD. When, how, for which purpose robots can be used in the treatment of children with ASD remains still unclear. Despite of the so declared potential of robots, rigorous studies are needed to provide answers to these questions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationXI Autism Europe International Conference
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2016

ID: 24062628