How Robotic Therapy Enhances Social Skills in Individuals with Autism

Posted on 06/02/2024 by MilesOliver in Blog

Today, nearly 1.3 billion people in the world live with some sort of disability. A great many of these people are on the autism spectrum; some experts estimate nearly 1% of the world’s population lives with the condition. Autism is a lifelong disability that impacts how people interact and communicate with the world around them. Understanding social cues, interacting with other people, and communicating needs can be particularly challenging. 

Fortunately, advances in technology are working to help more people on the autism spectrum develop social skills and attend personalized therapy sessions that can help them function more effectively in everyday society. One of the most powerful technologies advancing this goal is in the realm of robotics. Many healthcare professionals believe robotic therapy could be an important cornerstone of social development. 

What is Robotic Therapy 

Many experts on autism agree that although the disability cannot be cured, early intervention and therapy can go a long way toward helping children with autism develop the skills and coping mechanisms necessary to get by. However, therapies such as those focused on speech and behavior can be time-consuming and expensive. Almost 20 hours of therapy per week is recommended for the best results. 

On the other hand, the concept of robots helping people with autism develop the skills to better interact with people is a little mind-bending. But the technology may make it more affordable for parents to help their kids get the therapy they need — all from the comfort of their own homes. The robots may be able to supplement human-based therapy visits by taking over some of the more repetitive tasks and monitoring progress that human therapists can review. 

These robots can also be designed to deliver personalized care to their patients. Researchers are utilizing artificial intelligence software to train the robots to respond to certain levels of interaction and determine whether kids are engaged. If engagement levels aren’t being met, the robot can change tactics and learn which strategies are best for helping specific kids.  

Developing Social Skills

For many neurodivergent individuals, including those with autism, the way the brain processes and communicates information is different. Of course, this can make the majority of social situations exceptionally challenging and uncomfortable for many kids and adults alike. Many feel overwhelmed with face-to-face interactions or focus their attention on what another person is really saying. 

Here, robots are poised to play a huge role. In many ways, robots are more consistent than other humans; there aren’t as many social cues, facial expressions, and tonal voice changes to process, which can make interacting a lot more straightforward for kids with autism. Some studies have even indicated that kids with autism who interact with robots are more willing to engage with therapists and even their family members positively. 

Contrary to fears that introducing robots would take away from human interactions and relationships, studies actually indicate that the robots are helping kids on the autistic spectrum have more positive interactions with and more empathy towards their peers. The games the robot plays may be disguised as math or reading-focused, but they are actually designed to encourage basic social skill building such as sharing or maintaining eye contact. 

A Path into the Future

Although much of the technology is in its infancy right now, the belief is that it can be developed to provide lifelong assistance to kids on the autism spectrum. Many robots can be designed to answer in a predictable way, without many complex human emotions in the beginning but slowly become more unpredictable and human-like over time. This can help children slowly develop an understanding of how to react and communicate in various social situations. The robot can work adaptively to meet a child where they meet the robot on a given day. 

In addition to helping kids with autism, robotics can be used for others in vastly different circumstances with the ultimate goal of socialization. For example, robots are used extensively to help with the socialization of rehabilitation patients and those living in long-term care facilities. Evidence suggests that these robots play a critical role both in helping people function alone and in assisting them with certain tasks. The robots can also play an important social role by using microphones and sensors to give people the interaction they need. 


Robots have the power to play an invaluable role in the development of social skills in individuals with autism. The technology can help reduce the burden of in-person therapy sessions and may even produce better results in some cases. They can not only take some of the social pressure off of learners with autism, but with time, they’ll become more complex, helping kids to develop and grow their skills. It is a powerful tool that is set to have a very, very positive impact on thousands of individuals over time.    


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