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Autism Res. 2016 Feb;9(2):165-83. doi: 10.1002/aur.1527. Epub 2015 Oct 20.

Autism and social robotics: A systematic review.

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Clinical Physiology Institute, National Research Council of Italy (IFC-CNR), Messina Unit, 98125, Messina, Italy.
Department of Cognitive Sciences, Educational and Cultural Studies, University of Messina, 98122, Messina, Italy.
Clinical Physiology Institute, National Research Council of Italy (IFC-CNR), Pisa Unit, 56124, Pisa, Italy.
Department of Developmental Neuroscience, Stella Maris Scientific Institute, 56018 Calambrone, Pisa, Italy.
Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, School and Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, University Hospital "G. Martino", 98125, Messina, Italy.
Institute of Applied Sciences and Intelligent Systems, National Research Council of Italy (ISASI-CNR), Messina Unit, Italy.


Social robotics could be a promising method for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) treatment. The aim of this article is to carry out a systematic literature review of the studies on this topic that were published in the last 10 years. We tried to address the following questions: can social robots be a useful tool in autism therapy? We followed the PRISMA guidelines, and the protocol was registered within PROSPERO database (CRD42015016158). We found many positive implications in the use of social robots in therapy as for example: ASD subjects often performed better with a robot partner rather than a human partner; sometimes, ASD patients had, toward robots, behaviors that TD patients had toward human agents; ASDs had a lot of social behaviors toward robots; during robotic sessions, ASDs showed reduced repetitive and stereotyped behaviors and, social robots manage to improve spontaneous language during therapy sessions. Therefore, robots provide therapists and researchers a means to connect with autistic subjects in an easier way, but studies in this area are still insufficient. It is necessary to clarify whether sex, intelligence quotient, and age of participants affect the outcome of therapy and whether any beneficial effects only occur during the robotic session or if they are still observable outside the clinical/experimental context.


autism diagnosis; autism spectrum disorder; autism therapy; humanoid robots; social robotics

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