Humanoid Robots for Therapeutic Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder Children

Humanoid Robots for Therapeutic Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder Children

Current clinical practice in the treatment of children with ASD calls for behavioural treatment in order to improve social, communication and cognitive skills of children. The goal is not only to minimize the main symptoms but also reduce the risk of secondary symptoms such as aggressiveness and irritability. They combine intervention programs based on behaviour in development and education methods. But they have difficulties to relate to their therapists.

Previous work to mitigate this problem has been done using animals (dogs, horses, dolphins...) with good results, but working with animals is very complex.

The therapist (hospitals) have identified a need, as these children need special care, an a possible solution: several non traditional health treatment alternatives (using animals, machines and robots) have shown marked improvements in the children life quality.

The aim is to develop an application for assisted therapy in children interactive humanoid robots with ASD and contribute to the improvement of social, communication and cognitive skills of children and reduce the risk of secondary symptoms such as aggression or irritability.

The application is based on the experience that the use of robots can be beneficial for the therapy of these children as they can interact "intermediaries" between the child and therapist or between several children to facilitate social relationship.

During application development, children with ASD aged between 4 and 7 years receive weekly therapy sessions with robots that will develop in the Unit of Child Neuro-rehabilitation Hospital Manises (UNRHI) and the Institute for Diagnostic and Research Children with Autism Spectrum (IDINEA) associated with the Hospital de la Ribera.

Robots allow simple and predictable social interaction, reducing stress and pressure in children with ASD. So far, its use in clinical settings has not been systematically tested. The set of therapeutic interventions and social development based therapies robots, can lead to new treatment opportunities and new uses for interactive robots.

The characteristics of these robots (predictable behaviour, fewer stimuli) can contribute to a more satisfactory and effective treatment. The robots are equipped with video cameras to image recognition and speech recognition microphones. They are equipped with a voice synthesizer to communicate in natural language and can perform a variety of movements: walking, doing gestures with his arms, moving his head, pick up objects, etc.

We have received funding in the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT) 2016 Call for Humanitarian Projects.

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Start date: 
Sunday, 8 February, 2015
Finish date: 
Saturday, 31 December, 2016