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Pivotal Response Treatment With And Without Robot-assistance For Children With Autism: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Iris van den Berk-Smeekens, Manon W. P. de Korte, Martine van Dongen-Boomsma, Iris J. Oosterling, Jenny C. den Boer, Emilia I. Barakova, Tino Lourens, Jeffrey C. Glennon, Wouter G. Staal, Jan K. Buitelaar

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AbstractPivotal response treatment (PRT) is a promising intervention focused on improving social communication skills in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Since robots potentially appeal to children with ASD and may contribute to their motivation for social interaction, this exploratory randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted comparing PRT (PRT and robot-assisted PRT) with treatment-as-usual (TAU). Seventy-three children (PRT: n = 25; PRT + robot: n = 25; TAU: n = 23) with ASD, aged 3–8 years were assessed at baseline, after 10 and 20 weeks of intervention, and at 3-month follow-up. There were no significant group differences on parent- and teacher-rated general social-communicative skills and blindly rated global functioning directly after treatment. However, at follow-up largest gains were observed in robot-assisted PRT compared to other groups. These results suggest that robot-assistance may contribute to intervention efficacy for children with ASD when using game scenarios for robot-child interaction during multiple sessions combined with motivational components of PRT. This trial is registered at https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/4487; NL4487/NTR4712 (2014-08-01).