Getting In Touch With Children With Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex condition that affects many systems in the human body, from neurological aspects to physical comorbidities. Children with autism often endure sensory overload from everyday stimuli. 

They may be nonverbal and may have difficulty understanding and relaying emotions. These combined experiences can cause the child to engage in repetitive or self-injuring behavior as well as self-isolation and heightened stress during social interactions. Therefore, In that case, it would be highly beneficial to get help from the children-assisted NAO robot for the development of social skills.

Traditional techniques to help these children cope with stress and overstimulation must be administered by a trained adult. As the rate of autism diagnosis continues to rise, and as the relative supply of caregivers, therapists, and paraeducators dwindles, there is an urgent need for new mechanisms to help children with autism learn to cope with stressful or unfamiliar situations.

Taking inspiration from existing methods such as deep-touch pressure (DTP) therapy and animal-assisted intervention, we aim to broaden the tactile interaction capabilities of socially assistive robots in autism intervention. 

We thus investigated guidelines for the touch-sensing capabilities of a robot companion for autistic children. Our approach combines an initial literature review, an in-depth interview study, and current best practices in tactile sensor development and signal processing. 

We translated the literature into a set of initial requirements for touch sensing, and we then explored these requirements through hour-long interviews with 11 autism specialists from a variety of backgrounds. We systematically examined these interviews using the method of thematic analysis.


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