Erie, Pa: On the Cutting Edge of Research in Autism


I opened my Autism Spectrum Quarterly journal to see an article in the research news

Yes, this is a topic similar to the research that we started conducting at the Barber National Institute in April 2012 with Dr. Josh Diehl and the University of Notre Dame. The collaboration is a project to evaluate the effectiveness of using a robot in clinical therapy for treatment of children with autism. The study focuses on the development of communication and social skills. desk titled “Humanoid Robot Helps Train Children with Autism.”

The journal article discusses the research at Vanderbilt University, which is also using the Nao robot. To date, they have worked with six typical children and six children with autism. They have found that in both groups, the children spent more time looking at the robot than looking at the therapist.

We have had similar results so far — children with autism seem to have a natural interest in technology and are very motivated by the robot to learn new skills. The goal is to have the children generalize the communication and social responses and apply them to real-life social situations.

Josh Diehl, PhD, will be presenting our initial findings in a presentation in September inErie.  Stay tuned for further information!

Learn more about the Robot Research Project by visiting our website at

You can also check out a video on YouTube about our Robot Research Project.

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6 Responses to Erie, Pa: On the Cutting Edge of Research in Autism

  1. MissesC says:

    It seem to be a start in the right direction. I do hope that the autistic children will be able to transfer this information to a more general area of their lives. Generalization is a hard concept for most children with autism.

    • Thanks for following the blog. Yes, generalization is essential and we have seen generalization occurring with the students who participated in the pilot project to date. What has been your experience?

      • MissesC says:

        It depends on the child. As always, with autism, there is a very wide continuum. It also depends on the kind of support the child receives, both at home and in school. I had one student with Non-Verbal Disorder. He was unable to understand or generalize any math concepts. The main problem in that case was language. Unlike the name, NVD students are verbose without total understanding of what they are saying. To help him, we went about treating math concepts like a foreign language. Also, he received constant support from a math tutor at his school. I would be delighted if you would give me your opinion on my posts

      • Yes, it depends upon the child, but individualization of instruction is essential. Obviously you provided this for your student with a non-verbal disorder and he was successful. I encourage our staff that all children can be successful. It is we the teachers who must determine the most effective methods of teaching our children.

  2. jpaulduplantis says:

    Reblogged this on Paul Duplantis and commented:
    There are so many aspects of robotics that do not come to mind at first glance. Unlimited in potential. Of course there are concerns. They always is with innovation!

    • Thank you for commenting on the blog! Yes the potential use of robotics is no doubt unlimited. I’m please that we have the opportunity to explore and research with the University of Notre Dame.

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