14th International Technology, Education and Development Conference (INTED), Valencia, Spain, 2 - 04 March 2020, pp.2090-2097
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) suffer from a characteristic impairment in the ability to interpret social cues and often fail to use social gaze in empathetic and joint-attention tasks. The behavior of tracking an adult's eye movements, which appears in typically developing children in about 6th month, is considered as the beginning point of the ability to respond to joint attention. Studies show that children with ASD exhibit less joint attention skill and they fail in looking at the direction others are looking at and pointing at and in following the direction others are looking at, pointing at when they are compared to typically developing children and other children with developmental retardation. It is reported in some studies that the behaviors of responding to others' joint attention and initiation to joint attention are taught separately, and in other studies, both joint attention abilities are taught together. Nowadays, robot applications have appeared as a new approach in ASD implementations as a result of technological and scientific developments. Various social robots have been produced with an aim to increase the motivation of those with ASD by decreasing the stress level in complicated situations in the social setting and by enabling them to learn in simpler, predictable, and controlled settings. Besides, recently, social robots have increasingly been used in teaching joint attention abilities. In this study, it was aimed to give information about joint attention and types of robots, explain the characteristics of social robots, and put forward the current trends related to social robots by examining the studies conducted on the use of social robots for teaching joint attention abilities to children with ASD. Social robots could be a promising method for ASD treatment. There are remarkably different results regarding the robot applications in teaching the joint attention abilities to children with ASD. Therefore, it is not definitively known to which extent robot therapy contributes to the student's joint attention improvement. While efficiency research is frequently conducted in the studies in which robots have been used for teaching joint attention abilities to children with ASD, although rarely, comparative studies have also been conducted in recent years. Positive results are mentioned in this efficiency research, whereas there are also controversial results. In comparative studies, it is noteworthy that the human being and robot applications were compared in only one study. As a result, robots are thought to provide a significant support for the development of joint attention interactions such as attracting the attention of children, helping them participate in activities, building a bond for social interaction, motivating them, providing natural stimuli and bringing about different emotional expressions although there are different results about robot applications in the development of the joint attention abilities of children with ASD. In the related literature, it is also suggested to work with larger and different sample groups in order to generalize the existing study results since it is observed that the dimension of generalization is not addressed. Further studies in which robots play an active role compared to therapists can be carried out.