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This pilot study evaluated a novel intervention designed to reduce social anxiety and improve social/vocational skills for adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The intervention utilized a shared interest in robotics among participants to facilitate natural social interaction between individuals with ASD and typically developing (TD) peers. Eight individuals with ASD and eight TD peers ages 12-17 participated in a weeklong robotics camp, during which they learned robotic facts, actively programmed an interactive robot, and learned "career" skills. The ASD group showed a significant decrease in social anxiety and both groups showed an increase in robotics knowledge, although neither group showed a significant increase in social skills. These initial findings suggest that this approach is promising and warrants further study.
Brief Report: A Pilot Summer Robotics Camp to Reduce Social
Anxiety and Improve Social/Vocational Skills in Adolescents
with ASD
Juhi R. Kaboski Joshua John Diehl
Jane Beriont Charles R. Crowell
Michael Villano Kristin Wier Karen Tang
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract This pilot study evaluated a novel intervention
designed to reduce social anxiety and improve social/
vocational skills for adolescents with autism spectrum
disorder (ASD). The intervention utilized a shared interest
in robotics among participants to facilitate natural social
interaction between individuals with ASD and typically
developing (TD) peers. Eight individuals with ASD and
eight TD peers ages 12–17 participated in a weeklong
robotics camp, during which they learned robotic facts,
actively programmed an interactive robot, and learned
‘career’’ skills. The ASD group showed a significant
decrease in social anxiety and both groups showed an
increase in robotics knowledge, although neither group
showed a significant increase in social skills. These initial
findings suggest that this approach is promising and war-
rants further study.
Keywords Autism spectrum disorder Intervention
Treatment Robotics Vocational Social skills
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental dis-
order that can cause lifelong challenges; however, in con-
trast to a plethora of early childhood interventions for very
young children with ASD, there is a dearth of evidence-
based interventions that specifically target adolescents with
ASD (Hendricks 2010; Webb et al. 2004). This lack of
support is problematic considering that some of the most
challenging aspects of ASD related to socialization deficits
usually do not remit with natural development (Locke et al.
2010; Shattuck et al. 2007). To the contrary, these deficits
could become more debilitating and distressing in adoles-
cence due to the fact that social demands become
increasingly complex with age (Webb et al. 2004). Ado-
lescents with ASD who fail to smoothly navigate their
social milieu can often become targets of victimization and
rejection by peers (Shtayermman 2007). As adolescents
with ASD grow more conscious of their own social diffi-
culties, many of them develop symptoms of social anxiety
and depression (Gillott et al. 2001; Sterling et al. 2008);
consequently, social anxiety is likely to lead to diminished
social initiation, thereby self-limiting natural opportunities
to practice social skills (White and Roberson-Nay 2009).
Considering their social difficulties and frequently
accompanying mental health issues, it is not surprising that
adults with ASD are reported to be among the least suc-
cessful groups of individuals in terms of community inte-
gration, post-secondary education, and employment
outcomes, even when compared to populations with other
forms of disability (Newman et al. 2011; Orsmond et al.
2004; Schall 2010). In order to promote more positive adult
outcomes in this vulnerable population, development of
J. R. Kaboski J. J. Diehl (&)J. Beriont
C. R. Crowell M. Villano K. Wier K. Tang
Center for Children and Families, University of Notre Dame,
1602 N. Ironwood Dr., South Bend, IN 46635, USA
J. R. Kaboski
J. Beriont
C. R. Crowell
M. Villano
K. Wier
K. Tang
J Autism Dev Disord
DOI 10.1007/s10803-014-2153-3
evidence-based and targeted interventions to help adoles-
cents with their social competence and vocational devel-
opment should be of high priority.
Traditional interventions to build peer interaction skills
of older children with ASD generally fall into two cate-
gories: (1) social skills training (SST) provided by an adult
instructor to children with ASD, either in a 1:1 or group
setting (Bellini et al. 2007; Rao et al. 2008; White et al.
2007); and (2) peer-mediated interventions (PMI), in which
typically developing (TD) peers and children with ASD
purposefully interact under the supervision of an adult
instructor, and the TD children are usually given special
training in how to engage the child with ASD (Bass and
Mulick 2007; Maheady et al. 2001; McConnell 2002;
Sperry et al. 2010). Both approaches are considered evi-
dence-based, with comparative advantages and disadvan-
tages. For example, direct SST is delivered by trained
professionals under a controlled setting, allowing for more
targeted and explicit instructions; however, it can be
extremely costly and generalization of the acquired skills to
the child’s natural environment has been poor (Bellini et al.
2007; Rao et al. 2008; White et al. 2007). Although PMI
may result in better generalizability and cost-effectiveness
(Kasari et al. 2012), it may not be appropriate for high-
functioning adolescents. There is some evidence that in
older children interventions that provide TD children with
descriptive information regarding a co-participant’s illness/
disability tend to improve the TD children’s cognitive
understanding of the illness/disability but do not always
lead to social acceptance and instead could have the
unintended effect of stigmatizing the child with disability
(Potter and Roberts 1984; Bell and Morgan 2000). This
may be due to the tendency of adolescents to distance
themselves from peers with disabilities, possibly because
they perceive those peers as different from themselves
(Rosenbaum et al. 1988; Ryan 1981).
We designed an intervention incorporating the beneficial
aspects of PMI while minimizing its pitfalls by focusing on
the unique strengths and special interests of adolescents
with ASD, rather than on their social deficits or on pro-
viding special training to TD peers. This method is based
on an exploratory approach designed by Koegel et al.
(2012) with elementary school-aged children. The inter-
vention by Koegel and colleagues targeted social skills
performance rather than social skills acquisition:itis
appropriate for children with ASD who have already
acquired requisite social skills but who do not consistently
practice or perform those skills in their natural social set-
tings. Using this approach, investigators brought together
elementary-age children with ASD and their TD peers into
a structured activity for which both of the groups indicated
a shared preference. Koegel and colleagues reported a
dramatic increase in positive social initiation and integra-
tion among their sample.
One promising candidate domain for applying this
approach with adolescence is science, and more specifi-
cally robotics. There is a growing body of literature
showing that many individuals with ASD show an interest
in and an aptitude for using technology, and robots in
particular have shown promise for use in the diagnosis and
treatment of ASD (e.g., Dautenhahn and Werry 2004;
Diehl et al. 2012,2014; Feil-Seifer and Mataric
Scassellati 2007). Still, many of the interventions involving
technology are designed for younger children, and have yet
to be adapted for the needs and interests of adolescents
with ASD. One particular exception is a study by Wainer
et al. (2010) that used a collaborative robotics class to
increase interactions between individuals with ASD. It is
important to understand whether this type of approach
shows similar promise for interactions between individuals
with ASD and their peers.
Our intervention involved a weeklong summer camp
during which adolescents with ASD and their TD peers
learned to program a humanoid robot while working col-
laboratively in pairs. Based partly on Koegel et al.’s 2012
model of social performance, participants were taught
social/vocational skills and were given supervised oppor-
tunities to practice these skills in an environment in which
they had a shared interest with their peers (i.e., robotics).
We hypothesized that this intervention would lead to a
significant reduction in social anxiety, and an improvement
in social skills performance in individuals with ASD.
Finally, we predicted that every participant, regardless of
their diagnostic status, would acquire increased robotics
knowledge as a result of the intervention.
Participants were eight individuals with ASD and eight TD
peers (ages 12–17 years) recruited from the community.
ASD diagnoses were independently confirmed (or for TD
participants, ruled out) using the Autism Diagnostic
Observation Schedule, Second Edition (ADOS-2; Lord
et al. 2012), Social Communication Questionnaire-Life-
time form (SCQ; Rutter et al. 2003), and clinical judgment
using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (APA 2013). Criteria for
inclusion in the study were: (1) inclusion in general edu-
cation science classes during the academic year (with or
without an aide); (2) an interest in robotics; (3) absence of
an untreated psychiatric disorder or other developmental
J Autism Dev Disord
problems not related to ASD, as reported by the parents,
that might interfere with study participation.
A total of 74 applicants indicated an interest in the
program, 32 of whom met inclusion criteria and were
invited for additional screening. These 32 applicants
received a diagnostic (ADOS, SCQ-L), brief cognitive
(Wechsler Abbreviated Scales of Intelligence, Second
Edition; WASI-2; Wechsler 2011), and language (Clinical
Evaluation for Language Fundamentals, Fourth Edition;
CELF-4; Semel et al. 2003) evaluation to facilitate pair-
wise matching. From these 32 individuals, we were able to
pair-wise match eight individuals with ASD with eight TD
peers on chronological age, gender, grade in school, IQ,
and language skills (see Table 1). Females were not
intentionally excluded; however, only two females met the
initial criteria and upon testing, it was determined those
two were not good matches for each other in terms of the
established matching criteria described above; as a result,
the final sample consisted of exclusively male participants.
Participants who were not selected for the camp were given
the opportunity to participate in a 1-day camp (not part of
the study) in which they were given the chance to program
a robot. All participants who completed screening evalua-
tions received a small monetary compensation and their
parents received a written clinical report of their child’s
performance on assessments. Participants who completed
the posttests received additional monetary compensation.
Baseline and Posttest Measures
On the first day of the camp, participants and their parents
came in 1 h early for an orientation and baseline data
collection. They came back within a week of the conclu-
sion of the camp for an hour-long post-intervention data
collection. Social anxiety was measured using the self-
report Social Anxiety Scale for Children-Revised (SASC-
R; La Greca and Lopez 1998) or Social Anxiety Scale
Adolescents (SAS-A; La Greca and Stone 1993) depending
on their age. The SAS-A is equivalent to the SASC-R, with
some minor modifications in wording of the survey items
to be more appropriate for adolescents, and they are often
used together (e.g., La Greca and Lopez 1998; Millea et al.
Table 1 Descriptive characteristics of the sample, and baseline scores on dependent variables
Measures ASD (n=8)
TD (n=8)
tp d
Descriptive characteristics
CA 14.05 (1.73) 13.83 (1.45) .27 .79 0.14
WASI-2 106.00 (18.56) 112.00 (10.77) -.79 .44 0.40
CELF-4 97.00 (11.41) 111.88 (6.71) -3.18 .01** 1.59
ADOS-2 13.50 (6.48) 5.75 (3.45) 2.99 .01** 1.49
SCQ-lifetime 17.90 (4.70) 4.00 (3.85) 6.45 \.001** 3.23
Baseline scores
SAS-A/SASC-R: total score 43.38 (9.15) 32.63 (10.43) 2.19 .05* 1.10
FNE 17.13 (3.80) 13.88 (5.08) 1.45 .17 0.74
SAD-New 16.13 (3.80) 12.25 (4.59) 1.84 .09 0.92
SAD-General 10.13 (2.80) 6.50 (1.69) 3.14 .01** 1.57
SSIS: Social Skills Scale 74.13 (16.49) 109.75 (8.71) -5.40 \.001** 2.70
Robotics knowledge quiz .98 (1.40) .40 (.48) 1.12 .28 0.55
Post-test scores
SAS-A/SASC-R: total score 37.38 (6.82) 32.75 (9.35) 1.13 .28 0.57
FNE 14.88 (2.47) 13.75 (5.60) .52 .62 0.26
SAD-New 14.13 (3.04) 12.50 (3.25) 1.03 .32 0.52
SAD-General 8.38 (3.07) 6.50 (1.85) 1.48 .17 0.74
SSIS: Social Skills Scale 79.38 (14.46) 109.25 (11.23) -6.04 \.001** 2.31
Robotics knowledge quiz 7.98 (1.52) 5.15 (1.73)
Robotics knowledge quiz is out of a possible ten points. CA =chronological age; WASI-2 =Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence, 2nd
edition; CELF-4 =The Clinical Evaluation for Language Fundamentals-Fourth Edition; ADOS-2 =The Autism Diagnostic Observation
Schedule, Second Edition; SCQ-Lifetime =Social Communication Questionnaire-Lifetime; SASC-R =Social Anxiety Scale for Children-
Revised; SAS-A =Social Anxiety Scale Adolescent; FNE =Fear of Negative Evaluation; SAD-New =Social Avoidance and Distress in New
Situations; SAD-General =Social Avoidance and Distress in General; SSIS =Social Skills Improvement System
*p\.05; ** p\.01
J Autism Dev Disord
2013). A score of 50 or greater on the SAS-A/SASC-R
indicates a clinical level of social anxiety, and a score of 36
or less is considered a low level of social anxiety. Social
skills were measured using the parent-report Social Skills
Improvement System (SSIS; Gresham and Elliott 2008).
The SSIS is a standardized norm-referenced assessment of
social skills and competing problem behaviors. The SSIS
yields two scales: The Social Skills scale and Problem
Behaviors scale. In this study, only the Social Skills scale
was considered since the intervention did not target prob-
lem behaviors. Robotics knowledge was measured using a
short factual quiz to test their practical knowledge of robots
and robotics. One-quarter of the quizzes were scored by a
second coder, and the two coders achieved 92.5 % reli-
ability (range =80–100 %).
Two consecutive, weeklong camps were offered, with eight
participants (four ASD and four TD) in each camp.
Throughout the camp, camp facilitators were kept naı
¨ve to
participant diagnosis, and the same social/vocational
training was given to all participants regardless of diag-
nosis. Parents and participants were not told that some
participants had an ASD diagnosis. Moreover, we did not
advertise the camp as an intervention targeting individuals
with ASD. When we explained the nature of the camp to
the participants and parents, we told them we would be
teaching robotics knowledge as well as ‘‘career skills
necessary to become a scientist.’’ However, based on the
fact that the camp was held at a lab known in the com-
munity for ASD research, and some participants were
recruited from previous ASD studies, some parents might
have assumed the camp was an ASD intervention.
The intervention lasted 3 h/day for five consecutive
days. The first 4 days had the same daily schedule: during
the first part of the day, students received a group
instruction on robotics and ‘‘career skills’’ (e.g., how to
work collaboratively); during the second part of the day,
students programmed an interactive robot. Participants
worked in pairs (1 ASD : 1 TD) that were pre-assigned to
work as partners for the duration of the summer camp.
Topics each day were interrelated; for example, on day two
of the camp, participants learned to program voice recog-
nition and face tracking, and their ‘‘career skill’’ involved
strategies on how to listen to others and understand them
better. During programming practice, participants had the
opportunity to actively program an interactive robot under
the guidance of two camp facilitators. The camp facilitators
were undergraduate students who had received specific
training in ASD and were closely supervised by the authors
throughout the camp. One facilitator had the role of
teaching and supervising the programming of the robot,
while the other facilitator taught ‘‘career skills,’’ supervised
interactions between pairs, and provided career skills
coaching to pairs when necessary.
On the fourth day of the camp, each pair had to decide
together the topic of the final project on which they would
work collaboratively for the last 2 days. The final project
was to be a culmination of all of the knowledge and skills
they had acquired and honed throughout the camp. The
main rules were that they had to program the robot to be
social (i.e., interact) with the crowd, and they had to
demonstrate each of the programming skills they had
learned. The nature of the projects was such that collabo-
ration and discussion were integral to each participant’s
accomplishing his team’s project. At the conclusion of day
five, a reception was held with family and friends. During
the reception, each team had the opportunity to present
their final project in front of their family and fellow
campers, and the crowd was encouraged to ask questions of
the participants. All 16 participants completed the camp,
including baseline and posttest sessions.
The robot was a NAO platform, a 23-inch tall humanoid
robot from Aldebaran Robotics that is capable of online
text-to-speech communication and 25 degrees of freedom
in movement that allows for human-like social gestures.
This robot was chosen because of its ability to roughly
simulate human movement and because it is publicly
available for purchase. Each participant pair worked on
their own computer and created/programmed movements
using Choregraphe, a programming software developed for
NAO. Once participant pairs created a movement or
sequence, they signed up for a time to test it out on the
NAO, under the supervision of a facilitator.
Social Anxiety
At baseline, the average SAS-A/SASC-R total score was
43.38 (SD =9.15, range =29–60) for the ASD group and
32.63 (SD =10.43, range =19–46) for the TD group.
Only one case from the ASD group and none from the TD
group scored above clinical level of social anxiety. One
case from the ASD group and 50 % of the TD group scored
below the low socially anxious cutoff of 36. The average
score of the ASD group differed significantly from the
average score of the TD sample with a very large effect
One participant missed 1 day of camp due to his school’s freshman
J Autism Dev Disord
size, t(14) =2.19, p\.05; d=1.10. Examining the sub-
scales reveals that the ASD group contrasted most sharply
from the TD group on the SAD-General subscale, which
represents general social inhibition, distress, and discom-
fort, t(14) =2.19, p\.01; d=1.57.
We predicted that the intervention would reduce self-
reported social anxiety in participants with ASD. A series
of paired samples ttest was conducted to compare the
baseline data with post-intervention data on the SAS-A/
SASC-R, separately for the ASD group and the TD group
(see Table 2). As predicted, the ASD group showed a
significant reduction in self-reported social anxiety
between baseline and posttest, t(7) =2.89, p\.05;
d=.74. The posttest mean of 37 is identical to the general
population mean for boys as estimated by La Greca and
Lopez (1998) using this measure and almost reached the
‘non-socially anxious’’ cut-off of 36. It should be noted
that seven of the eight participants with ASD reported a
reduction in social anxiety. As expected, the TD group did
not show a reduction in social anxiety, t(7) =-.12,
p=.91; d=.01, which is likely due to the group’s low on
social anxiety baseline scores.
Social Skills
Baseline measurement of the Social Skills Scale of the
SSIS yielded the following scores: ASD group averaged
74.13 (SD =16.49, range =48–98), 1.5 standard devia-
tions lower than the general population mean of 100; the
TD group scored 109.75 (SD =8.71, range =98–122),
consistent with the general population mean. The score of
the ASD group of this sample is almost identical to the
average score of the nationally representative sample of the
ASD population published in the SSIS manual (Gresham
and Elliott 2008): 74.6 (SD =15.9), confirming the rep-
resentativeness of our sample. As expected, the ASD group
showed fewer social skills than their TD peers at baseline
(see Table 1). Consistent with literature on the relationship
between social skills and anxiety, correlational analysis
involving the SSIS and SAS-A/SASC-R measures revealed
that there were very strong relationships between most
dimensions of the participants’ self-reported social anxiety
and their social skills (see Table 3).
We also predicted that the intervention would lead to an
increase in social skills exhibited by the group with ASD.
A series of paired samples t-tests was conducted to com-
pare the baseline data with post-intervention data on the
parent-report SSIS measure, separately for the ASD group
and the TD group (see Table 2). Contrary to our prediction,
there was not a statistically significant increase in social
skills exhibited by the ASD group, t(7) =-1.79, p=.12,
Table 2 Pre-intervention
versus post-intervention data
Robotics knowledge quiz is out
of ten possible points. SASC-
R=Social Anxiety Scale for
Children-Revised; SAS-
A=Social Anxiety Scale
Adolescent; FNE =Fear of
Negative Evaluation; SAD-
New =Social Avoidance and
Distress in New Situations;
SAD-General =Social
Avoidance and Distress in
General; SSIS =Social Skills
Improvement System
*p\.05; ** p\.01
Measures Pre-intervention
M (SD)
M (SD)
tp d
ASD group (N =8)
SAS-A/SASC-R: total score 43.38 (9.15) 37.38 (6.82) 2.89 .02* .74
FNE 17.13 (3.80) 14.88 (2.47) 2.83 .03* .70
SAD-New 16.13 (3.80) 14.13 (3.04) 2.37 .05* .28
SAD-General 10.13 (2.80) 8.38 (3.07) 1.70 .13 .29
SSIS: Social Skills Scale 74.13 (16.49) 79.38 (14.46) -1.79 .12 .17
Robotics knowledge quiz 2.17 (1.52) 7.98 (1.52) -13.03 \.001** 2.73
TD group (N =8)
SAS-A/SASC-R: total score 32.63 (10.43) 32.75 (9.35) -.12 .91 .01
FNE 13.88 (5.08) 13.75 (5.60) .36 .73 .02
SAD-New 12.25 (4.59) 12.50 (3.25) -.32 .76 .06
SAD-General 6.50 (1.69) 6.50 (1.85) .00 1.0 .00
SSIS: Social Skills Scale 109.75 (8.71) 109.25 (11.23) .20 .85 .05
Robotics knowledge quiz 1.42 (1.30) 5.15 (1.73) -7.16 \.001** 2.47
Table 3 Bivariate correlations among variables measured at pre-
SISS PB -.94* –
SAS total -.55* .60*
SAS-FNE -.40 .47 .91** –
SAS-NEW -.54* .57* .91** .70** –
SAS-general -.59* .62** .90** .75** .76** –
*p\.05; ** p\.01
J Autism Dev Disord
d=.17, even though six of the eight participants showed
an increase in their overall SSIS score. As expected, the TD
group, which was functioning in the typical range of social
skills at the beginning of the study, showed no difference
between baseline and posttest, t(7) =.20, p=.85;
Knowledge of Robots and Robotics
All 16 participants experienced a significant improvement
on the measure of their knowledge of robots and robotics
that we developed specifically for this study (see Table 2).
When comparing the ASD group with the TD group, there
was no statistical group difference in the baseline level of
knowledge or the amount of improvements the participants
made from pre- to post-intervention.
The results of this study provide preliminary support for
the effectiveness of a summer robotics camp at reducing
self-reported social anxiety in highly verbal adolescents
with ASD and increasing knowledge of robotics in both
individuals with ASD and their TD peers. In fact, self-
reported anxiety in participants was reduced to levels
equivalent to the population mean reported by La Greca
and Lopez (1998). By placing the focus of the program on
the strengths rather than deficits of the participants with
ASD and by providing an intrinsic shared interest, the
intervention did not necessitate disclosing the ASD diag-
nosis to the TD peers nor risk creating a power imbalance
within the pairs. Concurrently, this approach offers inher-
ent benefits to both individuals with ASD and TD peers and
creates a natural motivation for them to participate, leading
to a comfortable social and collaborative context in which
all adolescents involved could learn and practice good
social/vocational skills. We did not find a statistically
significant improvement in social skills, although the small
sample size and the choice of measure (parent report, rather
than real-time behavioral measures) might have contrib-
uted to the absence of an effect in this area.
This pilot study did not specifically examine whether the
use of a ‘‘robotics’’ camp was better than other types of
camps (e.g., music, art, math); however, there are reasons
to believe the use of robots may have unique advantages
for this population. First, individuals with ASD are often
drawn to technology (see Dautenhahn and Werry 2004;
Diehl et al. 2012,2014; Feil-Seifer and Mataric
Scassellati 2007, for reviews), which creates a natural and
powerful motivation for many adolescents with ASD to
seek participation in interventions such as this one. Second,
programming robots to carry out behaviors or
conversations makes one more aware of the function and
effectiveness behind the gestures and words used in natural
interactions. For example, in order to program a robot to
tell a joke, participants in this study had to think about
pragmatics of language, eye contact, gestures, when to
pause, and when to follow up with a question. Still, future
studies should examine whether the effects that were seen
in this study were specifically driven by a mutual interest in
robotics, or whether the improvement is related to the
broader issue of having a shared interest with a peer.
The results reported here should be interpreted with
caution due to several limitations inherent to pilot studies.
This study had a small sample, which limited our ability to
detect small to medium effect sizes and limited the number
of covariates we could test. Furthermore, because the post-
intervention evaluation took place immediately following
the intervention, one cannot make any assumptions about
possible long-term effects of the program. A longitudinal
study design would allow one to evaluate the long-term
benefits of this program on important measures of success,
such as community integration and postsecondary educa-
tional and vocational outcome. It is also important to note
that our data were based on self-report and parent-report
measures only. Direct observation of the participants dur-
ing their interactions with peers is needed to specifically
examine the real-time social performance beyond parent-
report measures of social skills in order to determine if
there are quantifiable improvements in social performance.
For example, the SSIS is designed to measure both social
skills acquisition and social performance, but it is not
designed to differentiate between improvements in one
area or the other. Thus, subtle improvements in social
performance might have been missed with this measure.
Measurement of symptom change in this population is a
serious challenge (see Bolte and Diehl 2013), and
employing varied data collection methods should minimize
the possible problem of inflated associations between the
variables under study that can arise from a shared method
variance. Therefore, future research should focus on rep-
licating the results of this pilot study with a larger and more
heterogeneous sample, providing more intensive and/or
longer period of intervention, and employing a longitudinal
study design with a wide range of data collection methods.
The present study offers at least two practical benefits
and implications. First, an intervention that does not dis-
close ASD diagnosis to TD peers is not only possible (e.g.,
Koegel et al. 2012), but desirable. Any intervention tar-
geted toward adolescents should be sensitive to the fact that
this is an age when social acceptance is crucial. In fact, a
number of participant pairs were seen informally
exchanging phone numbers at the end of the study. Second,
the reductions in social anxiety experienced by the par-
ticipants with ASD in this study emphasize the importance
J Autism Dev Disord
of developing interventions targeted to helping this vul-
nerable, yet often neglected, population. Given the prom-
ising results from this pilot study, we believe that this
approach warrants further study in adolescents with ASD,
with a larger, more diverse sample, and using multiple
levels of analysis of behavioral change.
Acknowledgments The study was supported in part by the Institute
for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Career Center, and the Glynn
Family Honors programat the University of Notre Dame. We would like
to thank Heidi Miller, B. S. W., for overseeing many crucial tasks
involved in recruitment of participants and data entry. We would also
like to thank the following research assistants who conscientiously
carried out a wide range of tasks at various stages of the project: Tara
Crown, Catherine Grace Connolly, Theresa Gorman, Kailey Kawalec,
Whitney McWherter, Megan Sullivan, Haley Van Steenwyk, Michelle
Won, and Julaine Zenk. We would like to thank the children and families
who have contributed their time to this research.
Conflict of interest The authors declare that they have no conflict
of interest, and received no monetary compensation or had any
affiliation with robotics companies as part of this study.
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... The main methods were observation (either video recording or real-time) and questionnaires. Only three studies applied one method: observation (Jordan et al., 2013, Silva et al., 2020; semi-structured interview (Yoshikawa et al., 2019), while the others combined two methods: report and observation (Kaboski et al., 2014); questionnaire and observation (Kumazaki, Warren, Corbett, et al., 2017, Kumazaki et al., 2018, Kumazaki et al., 2021; questionnaire and semi-structured interview (Kumazaki, Warren, Muramatsu, et al., 2017); observation and social skills assessment (Yuen et al., 2014). ...
... Three types of settings were used the studies, mainly the school environment, either a classroom (Jordan et al., 2013, or a STEM education center at a University (Yuen et al., 2014), a pilot summer camp (Kaboski et al., 2014), and a controlled research environment, specifically a standard clinical assessment room (Kumazaki, Warren, Muramatsu, et al., 2017, Kumazaki et al., 2021, Yoshikawa et al., 2019. In two studies the setting is not defined (Kumazaki, Warren, Corbett, et al., 2017;, while in one study there was the option to use a quiet room, either at home (adolescents) or the day center in which the young adults were enrolled (Silva et al., 2020). ...
... behaviors (Jordan et al., 2013), or of responses: physiological responses (Kumazaki, Warren, Corbett, et al., 2017;; responses to name (Silva et al.,2020), and preferences (Kumazaki, Warren, Muramatsu, et al., 2017), but also the ratio of number of words used (Kumazaki et al., 2018), communication performance and interaction effects (Kumazaki et al., 2021), and the duration of social contact: eye gazing and physical contact (Silva et al., 2020); social interaction (Yuen et al., 2014), and the looking-face ratio (Yoshikawa et al., 2019), and the culmination of all of the knowledge and skills (Kaboski et al., 2014). ...
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This is a review of studies from the years 2010 to 2020 on the use of robotics to improve the independent living skills of adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Individuals with ASD experience a wide range of challenges, including difficulties in social functioning, one of the core features of the disorder. Rapid progress in technology during recent years, especially in the field of robotics, offers new possibilities of training and education for individuals with ASD. This review addresses specific research questions on the use of robotics in ASD, related to the characteristics of the participants, skills, settings, technologies, data collection methods, evaluation parameters, intervention outcomes, generalization, maintenance, and research rigor. Social skills were the main target in the interventions for adolescents and young adults with ASD. Most of the studies reviewed used questionnaires, and observation as the data collection methods, and the classroom environment and a controlled research environment were the most common settings. Most of the evaluation parameters included the frequency, duration, and number of specific responses. All the studies in the review reported positive results in independent living skills of young people with ASD, but none had conducted generalization and/or maintenance probes. In terms of research rigor, the studies were generally rated as having adequate strength. Robotics appears to be an intervention that shows potential for the enhancement of independent living skills of adolescents and young adults with ASD. Future research should focus on the improvement of work-related social skills of adolescents and young adults with ASD. Exploration of the generalization and the maintenance of the acquired skills should be part of the study protocol.
... A total of 854 articles were eliminated at this stage because they were book chapters, editorial papers, theses, reviews, examined non-humans (i.e., animals), targeted adults or children with conditions other than autism spectrum, omitted TD peers, or did not assess the effects of a shared social activity. Of the remaining 36 full texts assessed for eligibility, nine studies either did not meet the operational definition of the interventions focused herein or did not assign it as the independent variable to directly assess its effectiveness (e.g., Chu & Pan, 2012;Crowell et al., 2020), eight studies did not include TD peers (e.g., LeGoff, 2004;MacCormack et al., 2015;Lerner & Mikami, 2012), and five studies did not utilize a true experimental design (e.g., Chiang et al., 2004;Corbett et al., 2014;Kaboski et al., 2015). An additional article was found following a review of the reference sections of the 14 identified studies, resulting in a total of 15 studies included in this review. ...
... Although Sansi et al. (2020) did not demonstrate a quantitative increase within the social domain for autistic children following their participation in an inclusive physical activity intervention (which the authors noted was potentially related to the small sample size of the study), semi-structured interviews following intervention revealed parent-and teacher-reported increases in social interaction and communication, as well as TD children-reported improvements in attitudes towards autistic peers, such as feeling more comfortable interacting with their autistic peers and wanting to spend time with them. Studies that were not included in this review due to failure to meet the inclusion criteria also show that shared social activities can lead to improvements in overall social competence, friendship quality, and reductions in social anxiety (Chiang et al., 2004;Kaboski et al., 2015). In a recent study, Cook et al. (2019) found that an 11-week music-making program yielded greater gains in prosocial emotions of TD children and reductions in victimization among TD children and children with autism spectrum-related behaviours who attended the program together versus separately, which suggests that musical activities can be used to combat social exclusion and bullying at school. ...
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This review synthesized the results of 15 studies (with 12 studies having strong or adequate methodological rigor) that examined the social outcomes of shared social activity-based interventions, like interest-based games, music, and theatre, involving children on the autism spectrum and typical development together. Thirteen studies yielded significant improvements in social cognition, social communication, and/or social functioning with two studies also reporting an increase in positive affect between autistic children and their peers. Overall, shared social activities that promote a sense of equality, are enjoyable, and build on the natural talents of children on the autism spectrum appear promising for increasing social learning within inclusive environments.
... The workshop also permitted the promotion of metacognitive skills such as abstraction and logical thinking. Kaboski et al. (2015) conducted an intervention in which adolescents with ASD and their typically developing peers learned to program a humanoid robot (Nao) while working collaboratively in pairs. Participants were eight individuals with ASD and eight typically developing peers (ages 12-17 years) recruited in this study. ...
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Extensive research has been conducted regarding socio-emotional skills training in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The latest autism research is now beginning to recognize the role of metacognitive deficits in ASD as well as the importance of metacognitive skills training in autism intervention. The purpose of the current review study is to shed light on the role of metacognition in ASD and identify assistive technologies that may compensate for metacognitive deficits. Specifically, we examine autism through the lens of the models of metacognition developed by (Drigas and Mitsea, 2020; 2021). Following these metacognitive models, we identified digital technologies that have the significant potential to train metacognitive skills in people with ASD. These technologies include, among others, robotics, virtual reality, mobile applications, digital serious games, coding digital games and robots. This review provides evidence that people with autism face important difficulties in almost all metacognitive domains. It also highlights that digital technologies are effective tools for training metacognitive skills within the educational settings to facilitate students' inclusion. This study is one of the few studies that deal with autism as a disorder of metacognition and gives pointers for future experimental research regarding metacognitive intervention strategies with the assistance of technologies.
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Background Robot-mediated interventions show promise in supporting the development of children on the autism spectrum. Objectives In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we summarize key features of available evidence on robot-interventions for children and young people on the autism spectrum aged up to 18 years old, as well as consider their efficacy for specific domains of learning. Data sources PubMed, Scopus, EBSCOhost, Google Scholar, Cochrane Library, ACM Digital Library, and IEEE Xplore. Grey literature was also searched using PsycExtra, OpenGrey, British Library EThOS, and the British Library Catalogue. Databases were searched from inception until April (6th) 2021. Synthesis methods Searches undertaken across seven databases yielded 2145 articles. Forty studies met our review inclusion criteria of which 17 were randomized control trials. The methodological quality of studies was conducted with the Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies. A narrative synthesis summarised the findings. A meta-analysis was conducted with 12 RCTs. Results Most interventions used humanoid (67%) robotic platforms, were predominantly based in clinics (37%) followed home, schools and laboratory (17% respectively) environments and targeted at improving social and communication skills (77%). Focusing on the most common outcomes, a random effects meta-analysis of RCTs showed that robot-mediated interventions significantly improved social functioning (g = 0.35 [95%CI 0.09 to 0.61; k = 7). By contrast, robots did not improve emotional (g = 0.63 [95%CI -1.43 to 2.69]; k = 2) or motor outcomes (g = -0.10 [95%CI -1.08 to 0.89]; k = 3), but the numbers of trials were very small. Meta-regression revealed that age accounted for almost one-third of the variance in effect sizes, with greater benefits being found in younger children. Conclusions Overall, our findings support the use of robot-mediated interventions for autistic children and youth, and we propose several recommendations for future research to aid learning and enhance implementation in everyday settings. PROSPERO registration Our methods were preregistered in the PROSPERO database ( CRD42019148981 ).
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Employment appears to be one of the greatest problems individuals with ASD have to deal with during their transition to adult life. In particular, unemployment or underemployment appears to be common among them, which suggests a gap in employment theory and practice focusing on the needs of this population. Tech-aided interventions appear to be promising since they can provide them opportunities to access competitive employment. The purpose of the current article is to examine the use of technology in interventions for adolescents and young adults with ASD in school, home, and community settings. In particular, it focused on the users of technology, the goals addressed, the type of technology employed, the contexts in which intervention practices were employed, and the outcomes for adolescents and young adults with ASD. In most of the studies, positive results were recorded and the importance of the work-related social skills was underlined. Technology appears to show potential for the enhancement of vocational skills of adolescents and young adults with ASD. Future research should focus on the improvement of work-related social skills and the skills needed for successful job seeking and an interview process. The maintenance and the generalization of the acquired skills should be examined too.
Anxiety is the most common co-occurring condition in children on the autism spectrum but the potential impacts of anxiety on social and academic outcomes of children on the autism spectrum have not been systematically examined. In this review, 50 studies were identified that explore the relationship between anxiety and scores on social or academic measures in children on the autism spectrum. Social competence was frequently measured, and the findings of these studies were mixed. While other social constructs have received little attention, associations were found between anxiety and victimisation, and anxiety and social relationships. Only three studies focused on the impact of anxiety on scores on academic measures, highlighting the need for further research in this area. Anxiety was most frequently measured using subscales from broader behavioural instruments, which may not capture the range of anxiety symptoms of children on the autism spectrum. Future studies that include multi-informant methodologies and proportional representation of females and children with intellectual disability will further knowledge of the impact of anxiety in children on the spectrum.
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Background The incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is on the rise. Currently, 1 in 59 children are identified with ASD in the United States. ASD refers to a range of neurological disorders that involve some degree of difficulty with communication and interpersonal relationships. The range of the spectrum for autism disorders is wide with those at the higher functioning end often able to lead relatively independent lives and complete academic programs even while demonstrating social awkwardness. Those at the lower functioning end of the autism spectrum often demonstrate physical limitations, may lack speech, and have the inability to relate socially with others. As persons with ASD age, options such as employment become increasingly important as a consideration for long-term personal planning and quality of life. While many challenges exist for persons with ASD in obtaining and maintaining employment, some research shows that, with effective behavioral and social interventions, employment can occur. About 37% of individuals with ASD report having been employed for 12 months or more, 4 years after exiting high school. However, several studies show that individuals with ASD are more likely to lose their employment for behavioral and social interaction problems rather than their inability to perform assigned work tasks. Although Westbrook et al. (2012a, 2013, 2015) have reviewed the literature on interventions targeting employment for individuals with ASD, this review is outdated and does not account for recent developments in the field. Objectives The objective of this review is to determine the effectiveness of employment interventions in securing and maintaining employment for adults and transition-age youth with ASD, updating two reviews by Westbrook et al. (2012a, 2013). Search Methods The comprehensive search strategy used to identify relevant studies included a review of 28 relevant electronic databases. Search terminology for each of the electronic databases was developed from available database thesauri. Appropriate synonyms were used to maximize the database search output. Several international databases were included among the 28 databases searched. In addition, the authors identified and reviewed gray literature through analysis of reference lists of relevant studies. Unpublished dissertations and theses were also identified through database searches. The programs of conferences held by associations and organizations relevant to ASD and employment were also searched. In sum, the search strategy replicated and expanded the prior search methods used by Westbrook et al. (2012a, 2013). Selection Criteria Selection criteria consisted of an intervention evaluation using a randomized controlled trial or quasi-experimental design, an employment outcome, and a population of individuals with ASD. Data Collection and Analysis We updated the search from Westbrook et al., replicating and broadening the information retrieval processes. Our wide array of sources included electronic databases, gray literature, and conference and organization websites. Once all potentially relevant studies were located, pairs of coders evaluated the relevance of each title and abstract. Among the studies deemed potentially relevant, 278 were subjected to full-text retrieval and screening by pairs of coders. Because many intervention studies did not include employment outcomes, only three studies met our inclusion criteria. Given the small number of included studies, meta-analytic procedures were not used; rather, we opted to use more narrative and descriptive analysis to summarize the available evidence, including an assessment of risk of bias. Results The systematic review update identified three studies that evaluated employment outcomes for interventions for individuals with ASD. All three studies identified in the review suggest that vocation-focused programs may have positive impacts on the employment outcomes for individuals with ASD. Wehman et al. indicated that participants in Project SEARCH had higher employment rates than control participants at both 9-month and 1-year follow-up time points. Adding autism spectrum disorder supports, Project SEARCH in Wehman et al.'s study also demonstrated higher employment rates for treatment participants than control participants at postgraduation, 3-month follow-up, and 12-month follow-up. Smith et al. found that virtual reality job interview training was able to increase the number of job offers treatment participants received compared to control participants. Authors' Conclusions Given that prior reviews did not identify interventions with actual employment outcomes, the more recent emergence of evaluations of such programs is encouraging. This suggests that there is a growing body of evidence regarding interventions to enhance the employment outcomes for individuals with ASD but also greater need to conduct rigorous trials of vocation-based interventions for individuals with ASD that measure employment outcomes.
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In recent years, social robots have become part of a variety of human activities, especially in applications involving children, e.g., entertainment, education, companionship. The interest of this work lies in the interaction of social robots with children in the field of special education. This paper seeks to present a systematic review of the use of robots in special education, with the ultimate goal of highlighting the degree of integration of robots in this field worldwide. This work aims to explore the technologies of robots that are applied according to the impairment type of children. The study showed a large number of attempts to apply social robots to the special education of children with various impairments, especially in recent years, as well as a wide variety of social robots from the market involved in such activities. The main conclusion of this work is the finding that the specific field of application of social robots is at the first development step; however, it is expected to be of great concern to the research community in the coming years.
Abstract Human–robot interaction has been demonstrated to be a promising methodology for developing socio‐communicational skills of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This paper systematically reviews studies that report experimental results on this topic published in scientific journals between the years 2010 and2018. A total of 1805 articles from various literature were filtered based on relevance and transparency. In the first set of criteria, article titles are screened and in the second both titles and abstracts. The final number of articles which were subsequently thoroughly reviewed was 32 (N = 32). The findings suggest that there are benefits in using human–robot interaction to assist with the development of social skills for children with ASD. Specifically, it was found that the majority of studies used humanoid robots, 64% relied on a small number of participants and sessions, while few of the studies included a control group or follow‐up sessions. Based on these findings, this paper tried to identify areas that have not been extensively addressed to propose several directions for future improvements for studies in this field, such as control groups with typical developmental children, minimum number of sessions and participants, as well as standardization of criteria for assessing the level of functionality for ASD children.
L’utilisation des robots comme médiation thérapeutique pour les personnes présentant un Trouble du Spectre Autistique (TSA) est une pratique en plein essor. C’est en effet une méthode encourageante pour favoriser le développement de compétences sociales. De nombreuses expériences sont actuellement menées. Cependant, dans toutes les approches existantes, le paradigme du robot-compagnon est utilisé : le robot est programmé pour présenter des comportements pré-établis. Le projet Rob’Autisme propose une approche alternative : le robot est utilisé comme extension pour faire ou dire des choses. Les sujets présentant un TSA le programment et, par son truchement, agissent librement sur leur environnement social.De plus, ce projet inclut l’idée qu’ils pourront ensuite interagir avec les autres sans le robot. Cette thèse vise à comprendre l’intérêt de cette approche et évaluer les effets de la participation sur les interactions sociales. Durant deux ans, des groupes avec six adolescents ont été organisés et analysés à partir de méthodes quantitatives et qualitatives. Ces analyses montrent que cette approche favorise la tendance à aller vers les autres et interagir avec eux. Ce résultat est en outre généralisé à l’extérieur.
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Children's expressed attitudes toward handicapped peers are related to many factors In this review the authors assess recent literature and present data from their own studies concerning the role of gender, age, parental attitudes, volunteering, familiarity with a disabled person, and the physical structure of schools as determinants of attitudes The importance of understanding these determinants is discussed.
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often have comorbid psychopathology in addition to socialcommunication difficulties. Social anxiety is of particular interest because it has been linked to downstream deficits in social functioning. Bellini found a link between social skills, temperament, and the development of social anxiety. The current paper examines whether negative affectivity moderates the relationship between social skills and social anxiety. Twenty-five high-functioning children diagnosed with ASD were administered self and parent report questionnaires measuring pragmatics ability, socialization behaviors, negative affectivity, and social anxiety. High negative affectivity was related to social anxiety, and moderated the relationship between socialization behaviors and social anxiety. Pragmatics ability was not related to social anxiety. Together, these results indicate that negative affectivity is an important factor in the relationship between social skills and social anxiety, and that not all social skills deficits contribute to social anxiety.
Advances in socially assistive robotics have the potential to promote innovation in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Research has revealed that individuals with ASD (1) show strengths in understanding the physical, object-related world and weaknesses in understanding the social world, (2) are more responsive to feedback given by a computer than a human, and (3) are more interested in treatment involving technology/robots. These findings suggest that a co-robot therapist may be an important addition to clinical assessment and/or therapy if it can emulate certain human therapist functions. Still, the majority of research in this area to date has focused on the development of technology, with scant attention paid to best practice clinical approaches. Therefore, the clinical use of robots for ASD should be considered an experimental approach to diagnosis and/or treatment until rigorous clinical trials are conducted and replicated. The end of this section includes a roadmap for future research on the clinical uses for robots in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with ASD. Crucially, clinical innovation must parallel technological innovation if this approach is to become an accepted diagnostic and/or treatment approach for ASD.
Social skills deficits are a central feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This meta-analysis of 55 single-subject design studies examined the effectiveness of school-based social skills interventions for children and adolescents with ASD. Intervention, maintenance, and generalization effects were measured by computing the percentage of non-overlapping data points. The results suggest that social skills interventions have been minimally effective for children with ASD. Specific participant, setting, and procedural features that lead to the most effective intervention outcomes are highlighted, and implications for school personnel are discussed. Finally, the results are compared to the outcomes of similar meta-analyses involving social skills interventions with other populations of children.
The purpose of this study Was to investigate the efficacy of using the SCORE Skills Strategy (Vernon, Schumaker, & Deshler, 1996) to teach high-functioning adolescents With autism spectrum disorders five important social skills. Ten male participants ranging in age from 12 to 17 took part in a 10-Week program. Results obtained using a multiple-baseline-across-skills design and a multiple-probe design indicate that all of the boys made significant gains in performance of the five targeted social skills and that the SCORE Skills Strategy is a viable program to use With high-functioning adolescents With autism spectrum disorder. The results further indicate that consumer satisfaction Was high for both the participants and their parents.
Teaching is more difficult today than in the past, and most educators predict that it will become even more challenging in years to come. Exponential increases within the school curriculum, spectacular changes in student demographic characteristics, and dwindling instructional resources make it extremely difficult for even the most responsive teachers to provide a high-quality education for all pupils. These challenges become more formidable when teachers attempt to meet the needs of students with mild disabilities in less restrictive settings (e.g., general education classrooms). In this article, we describe how a variety of peer-mediated instruction and interventions might assist classroom teachers in meeting such instructional challenges. We describe the extensive academic and behavioral needs of this population of students, provide an illustrative review of peer-teaching methods, and suggest future directions for research and practice.
Peer-mediated instruction and intervention is based on principles of behaviorism and social learning theory. In this intervention approach, developing peers are typically taught ways to interact with and help children and youth with autism spectrum disorders acquire new social skills by increasing social opportunities in natural environments. The authors outline how educational environments can be developed that are conducive to peer-mediated instruction and intervention. In addition, the authors present strategies for the careful selection and systematic instruction of typically developing peers as intervention agents. The author also present examples of empirically based methods of applying peer-mediated strategies across the age range.