Social Robots in Psychotherapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Cristina Pop, Bram Vanderborght, Daniel D David

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


Background and Objectives of the study Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a neurobiological disorder with a high prevalence of 1 in 88 children, (CDC, 2012). One of the most important deficits of children with ASD is considered to be their social impairment (which is also considered one of the most challenging skills to train) (Weiss and Harris, 2001). Although several standard techniques are being tested for improving social skills, it is still a critical need for new tools in order to increase the effectiveness of these strategies. Social robots bring new opportunities for innovation in standard therapy for individuals with ASD. Our main aim is to investigate the current status of the clinical applications of social robots in therapy of children with ASD and to develop an integrative theoretical model of using social robots in therapy for children with ASD. Methods We have investigated studies that analyze the interaction between individuals with ASD and social robots. Researchers investigating robots as mediators in therapy often report a. increased engagement, b. novel social behaviors c. increased levels of attention, when robots are part of the interaction (Vanderborght et. al, 2012; Kim et al., 2012). We discuss in our paper about a theoretical model based on our previous work in the field, including different types of clinical applications of social robots for ASD. Our theoretical model will draw some guidelines about the implementation of robot-enhanced therapy, more specifically about how robots can be integrated in standard therapies in order to increase the effectiveness and to achieve the best outcomes. Results Reviewing the studies from this field we discovered that the findings are still exploratory and have methodological limitations which make it difficult to draw strong conclusions about the clinical utility of robots. Our theoretical model of robot-enhanced therapy could establish directions of good practice in this domain and contribute to the improvement of robot-enhanced therapy. Perspectives There are still important research questions in this area of research that still need to be answered, such as who among individuals with ASD are best suited for this approach and what are the most suitable abilities to train during robot-enhanced sessions. Robot-enhanced therapy could become a common practice for children with ASD, but more extensive investigations regarding the effectiveness of robot-enhanced therapy are needed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Congress Autism-Europe, New Dimensions for Autism, September, 2013, Budapest, Hungary.
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2013
EventUnknown -
Duration: 27 Apr 2013 → …


Period27/04/13 → …


  • social robot
  • psychotherapy


Dive into the research topics of 'Social Robots in Psychotherapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this