The Effects of a Child-Controlled Robot on Maternal Conversational Dominance During Play: A Case Study

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  • Previous research has indicated parents of children with cerebral palsy and other complex communication difficulties exhibit high levels of control during communication exchanges. The current study investigated differences in maternal communication with a child with complex communication deficits in two free play sessions. During the first play session, referred to as the No Robot session, the child and her mother played with a set of toys provided by the researchers. The second free play session, referred to as the Robot condition, incorporated a means for the child to actively participate in the interactions, in that the child controlled a Lego RCX Mindstorm™ robot, operated by using three switches. The mother’s utterances were coded in each of the play sessions and analyzed for features of conversational dominance. The researchers predicted that the mother would demonstrate decreases in Yes/No and Open-Ended Questions, decreases in Direction of Action, and decreases in Direction of Attention in the Robot condition as compared to the No Robot condition. Results indicate that the mother’s rate of question-asking decreased in the play session with the robot. The mother also showed decreases in statements of Direction of Attention in the robot condition. Contrary to the researchers’ hypothesis, the mother increased her use of statements of Direction of Action in the play session with the robot. Overall, the mother did show evidence of changing her conversational style when her child was afforded a more active role in free play sessions.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International