A new study conducted into play for children with autism has shown that they respond well to social robots.
The toys have been on most children’s Christmas lists now for a few years. They are simpler to understand than humans, and pre-programmed with a set of responses, and repetitive games that children with autism respond and learn from.
Researchers and therapists in Singapore University have conducted an observational play study on a number of diagnosed children and using a wide variety of social robots designed to engage different social skills.
These social robots can also be used as diagnostic tools, some have small cameras for eyes which can monitor volume and maintenance of eye contact between the child and the robot. Usually, autism cannot be diagnosed until a child is at least three years old. But there is growing evidence that a diagnosis can be made much earlier by studying eye contact in high risk babies (those with close relatives who are autistic, for instance).
The study, explained here in the International Journal of Social Robotics, it concludes that the robot can be used as a therapist, a social actor, and a teacher for the child, because it is deemed to be less intimidating.