A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2021 | Number 3, Volume 35

Puppets may be a useful tool for teaching social skills to children with ASD

While the use of robots to teach social skills to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is increasing, a new study suggests that a lower-tech intervention—the use of puppets—may also be effective. 

Suzanne Macari and colleagues examined the responses of 37 children with ASD and 27 typically developing (TD) controls to a video showing a puppet and a human engaged in conversation. The researchers report, “Unlike TD controls, the ASD group exhibited limited visual attention to and chance-like visual preference for the human speaker However, attention to and preference for the puppet speaker’s face was greater than chance and comparable across the two groups.” While children with more severe symptoms of autism showed less attention to the human speaker than those with less severe symptoms, children with mild and severe symptoms paid similar attention to the puppet. 

The researchers conclude, “Since puppets can engage in back-and-forth interactions and model social interactions and communication, they may play a promising role in therapeutic efforts for young children with ASD.”


“Puppets facilitate attention to social cues in children with ASD,” Suzanne Macari, Xinyuan Chen, Ludivine Brunissen, Eukyung Yhang, Emma Brennan-Wydra, Angelina Vernetti, Fred Volkmar, Joseph Chang, and Katarzyna Chawarska, Autism Research, August 2021 (online) Address: Katarzyna Chawarska, Yale Child Study Center, 300 George Street, Suite 900, New Haven, CT 06511, [email protected]


“Study finds children with autism respond well to puppets,” news release, Mike Cummings, Yale University, August 5, 2021.