Cognitive and emotional interactions between autistic child, mobile robot and therapist: A case report

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Infantile autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which is characterised by difficulties in social and interpersonal communication as well as in processing own and other people’s emotions (DSM-IV-TR, 2003). Emotional impairment is thought to be a consequence of deficits associated with different cognitive processes (Boddaert et al., 2004; Courchesne, 1997; Belin et al., 2000 for example).
As would be expected, a large number of functional neuroimaging studies have provided the basis for concluding that in autism the more impaired cortical areas are those that are involved in complex cognitive functions such as perception, as well as social interaction and emotion (Corbett et al., 2009; Castelli, 2005 for example).
In autism rehabilitation therapy, different approaches are based on the belief that artificial environments i.e., robots, seem to be more helpful than real environments in allowing autistic children to express social interest. In order to study effectively the robot-child interaction, researchers have used fixed (Kozima, and Yasuda, 2007; Michaud et al., 2007; Robins and Dautenhahn, 2007; Billard et al, 2008) or mobile (Dautenhahn, 2007; Giannopulu and Pradel, 2009a; Giannopulu and Pradel, 2009b; Giannopulu and Pradel, 2010) robots. With the exception of Robins and Dautenhahn (2007) study, so far, the previous studies have reported dyadic child-robot interaction. The focal point of the analysis was on a single mode of interaction. As far as we know, only two studies have reported multimodal interactions in dyadic relationships i.e., between the autistic child and a mobile robot in spontaneous free game play (Giannopulu and Pradel, 2009a; Giannopulu and Pradel, 2009b; Giannopulu and Pradel, 2010). Using the spontaneous free game play, once again, the present case study aims to examine the role of a mobile robot in the context of cognitive and emotional interaction of the autistic child with a third person: the therapist. The three-pronged interaction among the autistic child, the robot and the therapist will be investigated in spontaneous, free game play by means of a multimodal approach. We hypothesise that once child-robot interaction is established, the child will use the robot as a mediator to initiate the interaction with the therapist and express emotion.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes
EventICDL EPIROB: First joint IEEE international Conference on Development and Learning and on Epigenetic Robotics - Frankfurt, Germany
Duration: 24 Aug 201127 Aug 2011


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