Teaching music to children with autism: A social robotics challenge

Document Type: Article

Authors

1 Social & Cognitive Robotics Laboratory Center of Excellence in Design, Robotics and Automation (CEDRA) Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran

2 Faculty of Humanities, West Tehran Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

3 Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences (ICBS), Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran

Abstract

Utilizing a humanoid social robot to systematically teach music to children with autism has not received wide attention to date. In this study, a novel robot-assisted music-based scenario has been designed in order to: 1) teach fundamentals of music via a xylophone-/drum-player robot as a teacher assistant, and 2) improve social/cognitive skills through active music games in children with autism. The educational-therapeutic interventions were conducted in an eleven-session case study program on three high-functioning and one low-functioning children with autism taking into consideration the children’s, parents’, and therapists’ experience during the program. The results indicated that as a tool and facilitator, the NAO robot does have the ability to teach musical notes/rhythms to the participants with high-functioning autism. It was also observed that the severity of the participants’ autism as well as the stress of the parents decreased somewhat during these sessions. Furthermore, noticeable improvements were seen in social/cognitive skills of all four participants; as well as the positive effect of this program on fine motor imitation skills of two subjects after the interventions. The progress reported from this preliminary exploratory study confirmed the potential benefits of using social robots and intelligent technologies as a facilitator in music-teaching and cognitive-rehabilitation.

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