Engagement of Children with ASD Using a Tactile Robot
Objectives: Through a series of structured play sessions with CARBO and another interactive toy serving as a comparison, we aimed to objectively characterize behaviors during interactions. The results of these interactions will be used to improve the games and to create a version of CARBO that can serve as a bridge in behavioral therapy for children with ASD.
Methods: We recorded multiple sessions of children and adolescents interacting with a tactile robot to test if interactions with CARBO modified sensory and motor behaviors and/or engagement and communicative behaviors in individuals with ASD. Using the data from CARBO, we assessed changes in movement behavior during game play. Using video data, we employed a dictionary of behaviors (including gestures and utterances) that we created for video-based coding and compared behaviors observed while each participant interacted with CARBO and another interactive toy. We also examined how behaviors changed over multiple visits. All coding was conducted using the multimodal annotation tool ELAN.
Results: We characterized interactions in 6 children and adolescents with ASD. These individuals spanned the continuum from non-verbal to very facile with verbal communication, and ages 9-17. Participants exhibited longer duration engaged interactions with CARBO than with other toys. We also noticed fewer instances of repetitive behaviors while participants were engaging with CARBO. Responses to CARBO’s requests to change movement direction or speed were responded to promptly in most cases.
Conclusions: Our pilot study observations suggest that children are considerably more engaged with the tactile robot, CARBO than with an interactive game. The extended duration of the engagement and ability to use the robot in requesting and turn-taking behaviors make it a useful tool in behavioral therapy.