Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) makes communication and social interaction very difficult for those affected. Existing studies have reported positive results for teaching social skills to children with ASD using human-controlled virtual agents and language skills using autonomous agents. Here we combine these approaches and investigate the potential of autonomous agents as social skills tutors. A system for audio-visually synthesising an agent is developed towards this purpose and utilised together with two tutoring modules that we specifically designed for teaching conversation skills and how to deal with bullying. Following evaluation, children's thoughts about their experience with the virtual tutor were investigated through use of a survey. The positive feedback and the modest but significant improvements in test scores for both modules suggest that this strategy for teaching social skills has much potential and that further research and development in this area would be eminently worthwhile.
|Title of host publication||Conversational Agents and Natural Language Interaction|
|Subtitle of host publication||Techniques and Effective Practices|
|Number of pages||27|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|