Frontiers in Robotics and AI (Jan 2022)

Visual and Hearing Sensitivity Affect Robot-Based Training for Children Diagnosed With Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • P. Chevalier,
  • D. Ghiglino,
  • D. Ghiglino,
  • F. Floris,
  • T. Priolo,
  • A. Wykowska

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 8


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In this paper, we investigate the impact of sensory sensitivity during robot-assisted training for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Indeed, user-adaptation for robot-based therapies could help users to focus on the training, and thus improve the benefits of the interactions. Children diagnosed with ASD often suffer from sensory sensitivity, and can show hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory events, such as reacting strongly or not at all to sounds, movements, or touch. Considering it during robot therapies may improve the overall interaction. In the present study, thirty-four children diagnosed with ASD underwent a joint attention training with the robot Cozmo. The eight session training was embedded in the standard therapy. The children were screened for their sensory sensitivity with the Sensory Profile Checklist Revised. Their social skills were screened before and after the training with the Early Social Communication Scale. We recorded their performance and the amount of feedback they were receiving from the therapist through animations of happy and sad emotions played on the robot. Our results showed that visual and hearing sensitivity influenced the improvements of the skill to initiate joint attention. Also, the therapists of individuals with a high sensitivity to hearing chose to play fewer animations of the robot during the training phase of the robot activity. The animations did not include sounds, but the robot was producing motor noise. These results are supporting the idea that sensory sensitivity of children diagnosed with ASD should be screened prior to engaging the children in robot-assisted therapy.