Personalized Affect-Aware Socially Assistive Robot Tutors Aimed at Fostering Social Grit in Children with Autism

Zhonghao Shi, Manwei Cao, Sophia Pei, Xiaoyang Qiao, Thomas R Groechel, Maja J Matarić

Affect-aware socially assistive robotics (SAR) tutors have great potential to augment and democratize professional therapeutic interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) from different socioeconomic backgrounds. However, the majority of research on SAR for ASD has been on teaching cognitive and/or social skills, not on addressing users' emotional needs for real-world social situations. To bridge that gap, this work aims to develop personalized affect-aware SAR tutors to help alleviate social anxiety and foster social grit-the growth mindset for social skill development-in children with ASD. We propose a novel paradigm to incorporate clinically validated Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT) with personalized SAR interventions. This work paves the way toward developing personalized affect-aware SAR interventions to support the unique and diverse socio-emotional needs and challenges of children with ASD.

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