Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a set of neurodevelopmental conditions characterised by a lifelong impairment, varying in degree, of three basic areas in the psychological development of children: limited social interaction, impaired or altered communication, and limited activities and interests. The EU-funded PlusMe project is developing a soft interactive toy (with the appearance of a soft, pillow-like panda) as a potential support tool for therapy of children with ASD. With the use of embedded electronics, this experimental toy can emit attractive responses such as coloured lights and amusing sounds when touched on its paws. It is also connected to a control table to allow the adult caregiver to modify the input-output contingencies, so as to produce responses that reward social skills like imitation, eye contact and turn-taking.
+me is an experimental soft interactive toy with a panda form designed in collaboration with developmental therapists. Thanks to embedded electronics, +me can emit attractive responses as colored lights and amusing sounds when touched on paws. The device is connected to a control tablet to allow an adult caregiver to modify the input-output contingencies, so as to produce several rewarding response patterns according to child’s reaction. These features make +me a potential support tool for therapy of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): the attractiveness and the functional versatility of the device could be exploited during play activities with a therapist to capture the interest of children, to encourage their social interactions, then reinforcing pivotal social skills as imitation, eye-contact, turn-taking.
+me is currently in experimental phase, in pilot tests on children (24-48 months) with ASD and Typical Development (TD). The experiments are conducted in collaboration with the Sec. of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry -Univ. of Rome “Sapienza”- whose researchers showed great interest to technological aid for therapy.
+me is an indirect -yet really promising- outcome of the ongoing FET project “Goal-based Open-ended Autonomous Learning Robots, GOAL-Robots” (Grant Agreement No. 713010).