Using Mobile Robots to Facilitate Academic Skills in Children with ASD

Poster Presentation
Thursday, May 2, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
S. Srinivasan1,2, M. Kaur3, C. M. Wanamaker4, T. Gifford4, K. L. Marsh5 and A. Bhat6,7, (1)IDC School of Design, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Powai, Mumbai, India, (2)Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, (3)Psychology and Human Development, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, (4)University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, (5)Psychological Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, (6)Department of Physical Therapy, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, (7)Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
Background: In the last few decades there has been growing research on the use of robots to facilitate social communication, motor, and behavioural skills in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Robot-child interactions are motivating for children with ASD and robots can in fact serve as models to teach children and help them practise critical social communication skills such as turn taking and joint attention as well as motor skills such as imitation, praxis, and interpersonal synchrony.

Objectives: The data reported here are part of a larger project aimed at examining the efficacy of novel, robotic interventions for school-age children with ASD. Our talk will focus on assessing the effectiveness of an 8-week intervention using mobile robots to promote academic/cognitive skills in 8 children with ASD.

Methods: 8 children diagnosed with ASD between 5 and 12 years of age participated in the study. Children received 2 expert-delivered and 2 parent-delivered sessions each week. The expert-delivered sessions involved interactions with a mobile robot, RovioTM (WowWee®), and an adult partner. The Rovio robot was controlled by a second adult in the room. Children engaged with Rovio in the context of a ‘walking’ game where children and their adult partners were asked to follow the Rovio robot as it traced alphabets/shapes in a 9-point square grid drawn on the floor. Children were thereafter asked to guess the traced shape and complete 8 worksheets associated with the traced alphabet. Worksheet activities included tracing the alphabet on paper, sounding the alphabet, finding upper and lower case versions of the alphabet in letter mazes, matching spelling and pictures of objects, and fill in the blank activities using the traced alphabet. We scored and compared worksheets completed by children during an early (Session 1), mid (session 9), and late (session 15) training session. Specifically, we coded for the total number of attempts per task, total number of prompts (verbal, gestural, visual, or manual) required to complete each worksheet task, overall accuracy of performance (0 incorrect, 1 – correct performance), and total time taken to complete each task. For each variable, a final score was obtained by summing across all 8 worksheets completed per session.

Results: Children significantly reduced the time taken to complete tasks and the amount of prompts required to complete worksheets in the late sessions compared to the early and mid-sessions with 7 out of 8 children following the group trends. In terms of accuracy of responses, although there were no statistically significant results, 5 out of 8 children improved their accuracy of performance in worksheets from early to late sessions.

Conclusions: Our preliminary results suggest that games involving mobile robots can serve as promising contexts to promote academic and literacy-related skills in school-age children with ASD.