Robot-assisted therapy for learning and social interaction of children with autism spectrum disorder
This paper puts forward the potential for designing a parrot-inspired robot and an indirect teaching technique, the adapted model-rival method (AMRM), to help improve learning and social interaction abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder. The AMRM was formulated by adapting two popular conventional approaches, namely, model-rival method and label-training procedure. In our validation trials, we used a semi-autonomous parrot-inspired robot, called KiliRo, to simulate a set of autonomous behaviors. A proposed robot-assisted therapy using AMRM was pilot tested with nine children with autism spectrum disorder for five consecutive days in a clinical setting. We analyzed the facial expressions of children when they interacted with KiliRo using an automated emotion recognition and classification system, Oxford emotion API (Application Programming Interface). Results provided some indication that the children with autism spectrum disorder appeared attracted and happy to interact with the parrot-inspired robot. Short qualitative interviews with the children’s parents, the pediatrician, and the child psychologist who participated in this pilot study, also acknowledged that the proposed parrot-inspired robot and the AMRM may have some merit in aiding in improving learning and social interaction abilities of children with autism spectrum disorder.