Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 32468
A Robotic “Puppet Master” Application to ASD Therapeutic Support

Authors: Sophie Sakka, Rénald Gaboriau


This paper describes a preliminary work aimed at setting a therapeutic support for autistic teenagers using three humanoid robots NAO shared by ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) subjects. The studied population had attended successfully a first year program, and were observed with a second year program using the robots. This paper focuses on the content and the effects of the second year program. The approach is based on a master puppet concept: the subjects program the robots, and use them as an extension for communication. Twenty sessions were organized, alternating ten preparatory sessions and ten robotics programming sessions. During the preparatory sessions, the subjects write a story to be played by the robots. During the robot programming sessions, the subjects program the motions to be realized to make the robot tell the story. The program was concluded by a public performance. The experiment involves five ASD teenagers aged 12-15, who had all attended the first year robotics training. As a result, a progress in voluntary and organized communication skills of the five subjects was observed, leading to improvements in social organization, focus, voluntary communication, programming, reading and writing abilities. The changes observed in the subjects general behavior took place in a short time, and could be observed from one robotics session to the next one. The approach allowed the subjects to draw the limits of their body with respect to the environment, and therefore helped them confronting the world with less anxiety.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder, robot, therapeutic support, rob’autism.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI):

Procedia APA BibTeX Chicago EndNote Harvard JSON MLA RIS XML ISO 690 PDF Downloads 764


[1] Jill Boucher, Vicky Lewis, and Glyn Collis. Familiar face and voice matching and recognition in children with autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 39(2), 1998.
[2] John-John Cabibihan, Hifza Javed, Marcelo Ang Jr., and Sharifah Mariam Aljunied. Why robots? a survey on the roles and benefits of social robots in the therapy of children with autism. International Journal of Social Robotics, 5(4), 2013.
[3] Kerstin Dautenhahn. I could be you: The phenomenological dimension of social understanding. Journal of Cybernetics & Systems, 1997.
[4] Kerstin Dautenhahn. Robots as social actors: Aurora and the case of autism. In Third International Cognitive Technology Conference, 1999.
[5] Geraldine Dawson and Larry Galpert. Current Issues in Autism, chapter 12- A Developmental Model for Facilitating the Social Behavior of Autistic Children, pages 237–261. Springer, 1986.
[6] Paul Dickerson, Ben Robins, and Kerstin Dautenhahn. Where the action is: A conversation analytic perspective on interaction between a humanoid robot, a co-present adult and a child with an asd. Interaction Studies, 14(2), 2013.
[7] David Feil-Seifer, Matt Black, MJ Mataric, and Shrikanth Narayanan. Designing interactive technologies for supporting research in autism spectrum disorders. In USC Interaction Lab Technical Report CRES-09-001, 2009.
[8] David Feil-Seifer and Maja J Mataric. Using robots to augment (not replace) people in therapeutic settings. In Robotics Science and Systems Workshop on Human-Robot Interaction: Perspectives and Contributions to Robotics from the Human Sciences, 2011.
[9] Deborah G. Garfin and Catherine Lord. Current Issues in Autism, chapter 7- Communication as a Social Problem in Autism, pages 133–151. Springer, 1986.
[10] Jacques Lacan. Autres E´crits. Seuil, 2001.
[11] D. J. Ricks and M. B Colton. Trends and considerations in robot-assisted autism therapy. In IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2010.
[12] Ben Robins, Kerstin Dautenhahn, and Janek Dubowski. Does appearance matter in the interaction of children with autism with a humanoid robot? Interaction Studies, 7(3), 2006.
[13] Ben Robins, Paul Dickerson, Penny Stribling, and Kerstin Dautenhahn. Robot-mediated joint attention in children with autism: A case study in robot-human interaction. Interaction studies, 2004.
[14] Sophie Sakka, R´enald Gaboriau, Jean Picard, Edwina Redois, Gwena¨elle Parchantour, Laura Sarfaty, Sonia Navarro, and Annie Barreau. Rob’autism: how to change autistic social skills in 20 weeks. In 5th International Workshop on Medical and Service Robots, 2016.
[15] Brian Scassellati. How social robots will help us to diagnose, treat, and understand autism. In International Symposium of Robotics Research, 2005.
[16] Shamsuddin Syamimi, Yussof Hanafiah, Ismail Luthffi, Hanapiah Fazah Akhtar, Mohamed Salina, Ali Piah Hanizah, and Zahari Nur Ismarrubie. Initial response of autistic children in human-robot interaction therapy with humanoid robot nao. In International Colloquium on Signal Processing and its Applications, 2012.
[17] Adriana Tapus, Andreea Peca, Amir Aly, Cristina Pop, Lavinia Jisa, Sebastian Pintea, Alina S. Rusu, and Daniel O. David. Children with autism social engagement in interaction with nao, an imitative robot: A series of single case experiments. Interaction Studies, 13(2), 2012.
[18] Iain Werry and Kerstin Dautenhahn. Applying mobile robot technology to the rehabilitation of autistic children. In International Symposium on Intelligent Robotic Systems, 1999.
[19] Iain Werry and Kerstin Dautenhahn. Modeling Biology: Structures, Behaviors, Evolution – Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology, chapter Human-Robot Interaction as a Model for Autism Therapy: An Experimental Study with Children with Autism, pages 283–299. 2007.