Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 49, Issue 1, pp 11–21 | Cite as

Roles, Strengths and Challenges of Using Robots in Interventions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

  • Claire A. G. J. HuijnenEmail author
  • Monique A. S. Lexis
  • Rianne Jansens
  • Luc P. de Witte
Original Paper


The aim of this research was to study roles, strengths and challenges of robot-mediated interventions using robot KASPAR for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Twelve focus group sessions were organized in which 70 ASD care and/or education professionals participated. Six roles for KASPAR were identified: provoker, reinforcer, trainer, mediator, prompter, and diagnostic information provider. Strengths of KASPAR are related to personalisation possibilities, its playfulness, the action–reaction principle, its neutral expression, consistent and repetitive application of actions, possibilities to vary behaviour in a controlled manner and having an extra hand. Challenges of working with KASPAR were: limited reaction possibilities, possibility of children being scared of KASPAR, difficulties with generalisation or transfer and finally potential dependence on KASPAR.


Autism spectrum disorders Robot KASPAR ASD Children Robot mediated intervention 



This work has been funded by a grant of the RAAK-PRO programme of SIA (“Stichting Innovatie Alliantie”) for the project “Social robots in care” (project number PRO-4-10). With this programme, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science aim to stimulate collaboration between public and private organisation. We are thankful for Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn and Dr. Ben Robins from the Adaptive Systems Group at the University of Hertfordshire (UK) who kindly provided us with a KASPAR platform to be used in this project. Moreover, we are grateful for the participation of the many participants in this study; they are warmly thanked for their dedication and involvement.

Author Contributions

The research presented in this article is part of the PhD work of the first author (CAGJH) who is the main researcher of the study, involved in coordination, design, execution and interpretation of the research and writing the manuscript. The second author (MASL) is the copromoter of the PhD candidate and was involved in the preparation of the study protocol, interpretation of the results and writing the manuscript. The third author (RJ) participated in data collection and analysis of the focus group sessions. The fourth author (LPdW) is the main supervisor and promoter in this project and involved in preparation of the study protocol, interpretation of results and in writing the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.


This study was funded by a grant of the RAAK-PRO programme of SIA (“Stichting Innovatie Alliantie”) for the project “Social robots in care” (project number PRO-4-10).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Huijnen, Lexis, Jansens, de Witte declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all the individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claire A. G. J. Huijnen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Monique A. S. Lexis
    • 1
  • Rianne Jansens
    • 1
    • 3
  • Luc P. de Witte
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Research Centre Technology in CareZuyd University of Applied SciencesHeerlenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.CAPHRI School for Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life SciencesMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Occupational Therapy DepartmentZuyd University of Applied SciencesHeerlenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.CATCH Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected HealthcareUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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