Robots and Therapy

Asd Therapy

Evidence suggests that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are especially interested in computers and other forms of technology, like robots.  Since we were already using human-like robots in our lab to investigate human-robot interaction, I decided to see if my colleague, Josh Diehl, was interested in collaborating on a study integrating our interactive robots into his ABA therapy with children with ASD.  The key insight here was that the robot is at once both technological and human-like in appearance and behavior, which means it can capture the interest of children with ASD and also model the kinds of human social behaviors these children need to learn. To pursue this insight, our research team needed to develop specialized software to control the robot so that the behaviors and interactions it could exhibit were rapid, flexible and realistic.  We then also needed systematically to compare the impact of therapy with and without the robot.  While the detailed results of this project still are being examined carefully, outcomes thus far have been very promising.  Our preliminary evidence indicates that the human-like robot does add to therapy as a kind of bridge between the world of objects (a focus for individuals with ASD) and the world of people (not a focus of those with ASD, but a therapeutic goal).  Parents also have confirmed that children benefit greatly from exposure to the robot.  These outcomes, when fully documented and understood, have the potential help to many thousands of children in our community and beyond.

Our scholory products so far in this area include:

Villano, M., Crowell, C. R., Wier, K. Tang, K., Thomas, B., Shea, N., Schmitt,  L. M., & Diehl, J. J. (2011). DOMER: A Wizard of Oz Interface for Using Interactive Robots to Scaffold Social Skills for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Proceedings of the 4th ACM IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction, Lausanne, Switzerland: ACM/IEEE.

Diehl, J. J., Schmitt, L. M., Villano, M., & Crowell, C. R. (2012). The clinical use of robots for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A critical review. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6(1), 249-262. 

Tang, K., Diehl, J. J., Villano, M., Wier, K., Thomas, B., Shea, N. M., DuBois, Z., Millea, M. A., Uhland, K. A., & Crowell, C. R. Enhancing empirically-supported treatments for autism spectrum disorders: A case study using an interactive robot. Poster session presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research, San Diego, CA., May, 2011. 

DiPiero, K., Stoddart, R., Diehl, J. J.,  Villano M., Crowell, C. R., & Wier, K. Improvement in Eye Contact for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Robot or Human Intervention? (2012, May).  Eighty-Fourth Annual Meeting Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL: MPA.

Klinepeter, E.A., Shea, N.M., Thomas, B., Van Ness, M., Kumar, J., Mazur, S.L., Millea, M.A., Wier, K., Tang, K., Villano, M., Crowell, C.R., & Diehl, J.J. (2012, May).  The effect of a co-robot therapist on repetitive behaviors during applied behavior analysis in individuals with autism spectrum disorders.  Presented at the International Meeting For Autism Research, Toronto, Canada.

Diehl, J.J., Crowell, C.R., Villano, M., Wier, K., Riek, L., & Tang, K. (2014). The clinical applications of robots in the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). In V.B. Patel, V.R. Preedy, and C.R. Martin (Eds.), A comprehensive guide to autism. Springer Publishing.

Kaboski, J.R., Diehl, J.J., Beriont, J., Crowell, C.R., Villano, M., Wier, K., & Tang, K. (2014).  Brief Report:  A pilot summer robotics camp to reduce social anxiety and improve social/vocational skills for adolescents with ASD and their peers.  Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. doi: 10.1007/s10803-014-2153-3.

Diehl, J.J., Crowell, C.R., Villano, M., Wier, K., Tang, K., Van Ness, M., Flores, J., Freeman, T., Klinepeter, E., Matthews, S., Mazur, S., & Shea, N. (2013, May).  Humanoid robots as co-therapists in ABA therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder.  International Meeting for Autism Research in San Sebastián, Spain.

Vernon, J., Kumar, J., Villano, M., Crowell, C.R., Wier, K., Tang, K., Zona, J., Portenier, D., & Diehl, J.J. (2013, May).  NAO-BASE:  A multimedia database to support socially-assistive robotics for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.  Presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Sebastián, Spain.

Kaboski, J., Beriont, Crowell, C. R., Villano, M., Tang, K., Miller, H., Flatley, A., Hartman, N., Kawalec, K., Prough, M., Simon, L., VanSteenwyk, H., McWherter, W., Won, M., & Diehl, J. J. (2015, March). Summer Robotics Camp: A Social/Vocational Intervention for Adolescents with ASD and Their Peers.  Poster presentation at the 2015 SRCD Biennial Meeting, Philadelphia, PA.

Tang, K., Dammann, A.  Won, M., Hartman, N., Flatley, A. J., Kawalec, K., Van Steenwyk, H. N., Crowell, C. R., Villano, M., Wier, K. G., & Diehl. J. J. (2015, May). GREAT Expectations: The Influence of Parent Outcome Expectancies on Social Skills Gains in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Paper submitted to the 2015 International Meeting for Autism Research, Salt Lake City, UT.

Diehl, J. J., Kaboski, J. Beriont, J., Villano, M., Tang, K..  Miller, H., Flatley, A. J., Hartman, Kawalec, N.K., Prough, M., Simon, L. T., Van Steenwyk, H. N., McWherter, W., Won, M., & Crowell, C. R.. (2015, May). Using a Summer Robotics Camp to Reduce Social Anxiety and Improve Social/Vocational Skills in ASD. Paper submitted to the 2015 International Meeting for Autism Research, Salt Lake City, UT.