The last two decades have seen the emergence of Socially assistive robotics (SAR). in the treatment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Early evaluations demonstrate that using SAR can improve the attention and engagement, increase imitation, as well as promote social and communicative interaction. However, previous studies in this field have been limited in scale in terms of the size of their subject groups with limited statistical power, short duration of time and methodological limitations.
The main aim of the SERA project is to address the aforementioned limitations of the previous research by conducting a novel large scale clinical study. We propose a new clinical evaluation of socially assistive robots in the field of autism training, by using the QTrobot (LuxAI https://luxai.com/humanoid-social-robot-for-research-and-teaching/) to specifically evaluate the clinical value of using this robot to teach cognitive, emotional, behavioural abilities to children with ASD. We will compare robot-mediated intervention with no robot intervention in different setups: therapy lab, school and home.
160 children with ASD (40 with QTrobot in therapy setup, 40 children in tradional therapy setup, 40 children in home setup and 40 children in school setup), aged 5 to 8 years, will be recruited from Italy/Luxemnurg/UK Countries. SERA project will be a randomized control trial and will be implemented following two phases. The first development phase, during which the socio-emotional understanding protocol and a systematic training and implementation protocol for parents and teacher assistants will be developed and tested. A second phase, in which the large scale clinical studies will be conducted in the three setups.
Firstly, we expect a positive impact of the intervention with QT on emotional skills, emotional wellbeing of children, their mental health, their ability to respond appropriately to emotions in themselves and in others, using emotion regulation skills effectively, and the emotion related autism symptomatology. Secondly, we expect an improvement in the attention span of children, their vocabulary and their behavioural self-control. We also expect that users will be satisfied with using QTrobot. Moreover, a goal of the SERA project is to demonstrate that robot assisted intervention for emotions is a cost-effective way of scaling the accessibility of the interventions, resulting to comparable and potentially even better results from traditional therapist delivered training.
Funded by National Research Fund (FNR) of Luxembourg (Ref. 15347198)
Scientific research managers:
Ing. Giovanni Pioggia (IRIB – CNR Researcher); e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – Tel: 320 339 0892
Dott.ssa Flavia Marino (IRIB – CNR Researcher, Psychologist and Psychotherapist);
Dott.ssa Tindara Caprì (IRIB – CNR Associated, FNR Scholar, Psychologist and Psychotherapist).
Giovanni Pioggia, Electronic Engineer with specialization in Bioengineering, PhD in Robotics, is a senior researcher of the National Research Council (CNR), Institute for Biomedical Research and Innovation (IRIB), section manager of Messina secondary unit.