The effectiveness of using a robotics class to foster collaboration among groups of children with autism in an exploratory study
This article describes an exploratory study involving the design of an after-school robotics class for groups of children at the higher-functioning end of the autistic spectrum. The aim of the study was to foster collaboration among the children in the context of a class where they programmed Lego robots under the guidance of an experimenter. The class took place once a week over several months and used many different measures to assess the children's collaborative behavious. Detailed analysis of behavioural data is presented and, despite the small sample size, our findings suggest that the number of potentially collaborative behavious the children displayed during a class is more strongly related to the amount of enjoyment the children derived from the classes that to the number of classes in which the children participated. Parallel-run, free-form drawing sessions conducted before certain classes gave some indication that these bahavioural changes partly generalized to a different context. Additionally, many of the children in the class either found their experiences in class to be helpful in other social interactions or expected them to be.