Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 14606518
Project Title(English) : Does a social robot lend a helping hand to learning gestures among children with ASD? Effects of robotic versus human intervention in the development of gestural skills.  
Project Title(Chinese) : 社交機械人是否幫助自閉症兒童學習手勢? 機械人與人為干預對手勢技能發展的影響。 
Principal Investigator(English) : Prof So, Catherine Wing-chee 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Dept of Educational Psychology
Institution : The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Co - Investigator(s) :
Dr Chan, Rosanna, Yuen-Yan
Miss Lam, Carrie Ka-Yee
Prof Qian, Hui Huan
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Education
Exercise Year : 2018 / 19
Fund Approved : 744,000
Project Status : On-going
Completion Date : 31-12-2021
Abstract as per original application
We move our hands spontaneously when speaking. Such hand movements are gestures. Intransitive gesture is crucial for communication and social interaction(e.g., HANDS-CLAPPING for awesome). Early studies by others and the PI have found delay in development of intransitive gesture in young and school-aged children with Autism Spectrum Disorders(ASD). Thus, intervention is needed to promote gestural communication skills in children with ASD. However, these children have difficulty in imitating gestures produced by humans as they prefer attending to objects to human beings. The PI pioneered the use of social robots in teaching Chinese-speaking school-aged children with low-functioning ASD (IQs<70) gesture use (So et al., 2016b; 2017). Her results reported that children recognized and imitated more gestures as well as producing them in appropriate social contexts after training (2016b). However, it is not clear whether robots are more effective than humans in teaching children with ASD gesture use. In the present study, we aim to 1) compare the effectiveness of a robot-based intervention(RBI) to that of a human-based intervention program(HBI) on gestural learning; 2) investigate whether the beneficial effect of RBI on gestural learning is moderated by children’s cognitive and social skills; 3) examine whether RBI, in comparison to HBI, would yield long-lasting learning effect and help children with low-functioning ASD to generalize the acquired skills to novel contexts. Fourteen sets of conversations are created, with each containing one gesture. We recruit 150 six- to twelve-year-old Cantonese-speaking children with low-functioning ASD. Children are randomly assigned to three conditions: two intervention conditions (RBI, HBI), and a care-as-usual condition, with fifty children in each condition. Both intervention conditions will last for twelve weeks and teach children the meanings of the gestures used in the specific conversations. Children’s learning outcomes will be measured by immediate and one follow-up standardized tests and their ability to generalize acquired gestural skills to novel contexts. We hypothesize that RBI is more effective than HBI in helping children with low-functioning ASD to acquire gestural communication skills. The beneficial effect of RBI may be more salient for children especially for those with weak attention abilities and communication and social interaction skills. Children in the RBI condition are also able to transfer the acquired gestural skills to novel contexts. Moreover, the beneficial learning outcome of RBI is still evident in the second posttest. Our results provide recommendation for therapists in applying RBI to foster the social and communicative skills of children with ASD.
我們說話時會自發地活動雙手。這些手部動作就是手勢。不及物手勢(Intransitive gesture)對於溝通和社交互動至關重要(例如拍手代表「很好」)。主要研究者及其團隊的早期研究發現,患有自閉症譜系障礙(Autism Spectrum Disorders, ASD)的幼兒和學齡兒童,其不及物手勢的發展較為遲緩。因此,自閉症兒童有需要接受干預治療以促進他們的手勢溝通技巧。然而,這些孩子難以模仿人類產生的手勢,因為他們更喜歡專注於物件多於人類。 主要研究者率先使用社交機械人,向患有低功能自閉症並說廣東話的學齡兒童(智商低於70)教導手勢的運用(蘇及其他,2016b; 2017)。 她的研究結果表明,兒童在訓練後能辨認及模仿更多的手勢,以及能在適當的社交環境中運用這些手勢(2016b)。 然而,目前尚不清楚機械人在教導自閉症兒童使用手勢方面是否比人類更為有效。 在本研究中,我們的目標是1)比較基於機械人的(robot-based intervention , RBI)與基於人類的(human-based intervention , HBI)手勢學習干預計劃的有效性; 2)研究RBI對於手勢學習的有利影響是否受到兒童的認知和社交能力的調節; 3)調查與HBI相比,RBI是否會產生更持久的學習效果,並更能幫助患有低功能自閉症的兒童將獲得的技巧應用到新的情景中。 我們創作了14組對話,每組包含了一個手勢。 我們招募了150名六至十二歲的患有低功能自閉症並說廣東話的兒童。兒童被隨機分配到三個組別:兩個干預組別(RBI,HBI)和常規照顧組別。每個組別分別有50個兒童。這兩個干預組別將持續12週,並教導兒童在特定對話中使用的手勢的含義。兒童的學習成果將透過即時的和一個後續的標準化測試,及其將獲得的手勢技巧應用到新情景的能力來衡量。 我們預計RBI比HBI能更有效地幫助患有低功能自閉症的兒童習得手勢溝通技巧。RBI的有利影響可能對兒童更為顯著,特別是對於那些專注力、溝通和社交能力弱的兒童。 在RBI組別的兒童也能夠將獲得的手勢技巧應用到新的情境中。此外,RBI在第二次後測中的有利學習成果仍然顯著。 我們的研究結果將為治療師如何應用RBI,以促進自閉症兒童的社交和溝通提供建議。
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