Using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder – Protocol

Interventions using robot-assisted therapy may be beneficial for the social skills development of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are lacking | BMJ Open

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Introduction: The present research aims to assess the feasibility of conducting an RCT evaluating the effectiveness of a social skills intervention using Kinesics and Synchronisation in Personal Assistant Robotics (Kaspar) with children with ASD.

Methods and analysis: Forty children will be recruited. Inclusion criteria are the following: aged 5–10 years, confirmed ASD diagnosis, IQ over 70, English-language comprehension, a carer who can complete questionnaires in English and no current participation in a private social communication intervention. Children will be randomised to receive an intervention with a therapist and Kaspar, or with the therapist only. They will receive two familiarisation sessions and six treatment sessions for 8 weeks. They will be assessed at baseline, and at 10 and 22 weeks after baseline. The primary outcome of this study is to evaluate whether the predetermined feasibility criteria for a full-scale trial are met. The potential primary outcome measures for a full-scale trial are the Social Communication Questionnaire and the Social Skills Improvement System. We will conduct a preliminary economic analysis. After the study has ended, a sample of 20 participants and their families will be invited to participate in semistructured interviews to explore the feasibility and acceptability of the study’s methods and intervention.

Full reference: Mengoni, S.E. et al. (2017) Feasibility study of a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of using a humanoid robot to improve the social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (Kaspar RCT): a study protocol. BMJ Open. 7:e017376.

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