Social skills training for children with autism spectrum disorder using a robotic behavioral intervention system

Autism Res. 2017 Jul;10(7):1306-1323. doi: 10.1002/aur.1778. Epub 2017 May 2.

Abstract

We designed a robot system that assisted in behavioral intervention programs of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The eight-session intervention program was based on the discrete trial teaching protocol and focused on two basic social skills: eye contact and facial emotion recognition. The robotic interactions occurred in four modules: training element query, recognition of human activity, coping-mode selection, and follow-up action. Children with ASD who were between 4 and 7 years old and who had verbal IQ ≥ 60 were recruited and randomly assigned to the treatment group (TG, n = 8, 5.75 ± 0.89 years) or control group (CG, n = 7; 6.32 ± 1.23 years). The therapeutic robot facilitated the treatment intervention in the TG, and the human assistant facilitated the treatment intervention in the CG. The intervention procedures were identical in both groups. The primary outcome measures included parent-completed questionnaires, the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), and frequency of eye contact, which was measured with the partial interval recording method. After completing treatment, the eye contact percentages were significantly increased in both groups. For facial emotion recognition, the percentages of correct answers were increased in similar patterns in both groups compared to baseline (P > 0.05), with no difference between the TG and CG (P > 0.05). The subjects' ability to play, general behavioral and emotional symptoms were significantly diminished after treatment (p < 0.05). These results showed that the robot-facilitated and human-facilitated behavioral interventions had similar positive effects on eye contact and facial emotion recognition, which suggested that robots are useful mediators of social skills training for children with ASD. Autism Res 2017,. © 2017 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Autism Res 2017, 10: 1306-1323. © 2017 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; eye contact; facial emotion recognition; social skill training; therapeutic robot.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emotions
  • Eye Movements
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Robotics / methods*
  • Social Skills*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires