Social Fringe Dwellers: Can chat-bots combat bullies to improve participation for children with autism?


  • David Ireland CSIRO
  • Dana Bradford CSIRO
  • Geremy Farr-Wharton CSIRO



Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can cause a gulf in communication that casts children with autism to the fringes of social and family life, despite the best efforts of their carers. These children often struggle with social interaction, lack of interest and empathy, and require intensive therapy to improve their ability to communicate with others. Improvements in social interaction are often hampered by experiences in which children with autism are more susceptible to being bullied. Social and communication technologies (e.g. smartphones and tablets), which children with autism tend to gravitate toward, and to which many families have access, may play a significant future role in building resilience and improving social interaction. Based on technology reviews and stakeholder interviews, we are developing modules for a machine learning artificial intelligence platform (a chat-bot) that assists children attending an Australian mainstream school to recognise and respond to social bullying and sarcasm, allowing bullied autistic children to develop the social prowess to withstand their aggressors.


Author Biographies

David Ireland, CSIRO

Dr. David Ireland is a computer scientist, electronic engineer, and research scientist in autism spectrum disorder, Parkinson's disease, dementia and chronic pain.

Dana Bradford, CSIRO

Dr Bradford develops digital services for equitable health care in culturally and neurologically diverse populations, particularly for chronic and mental health.

Geremy Farr-Wharton, CSIRO

Dr Geremy Farr-Wharton is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Human Computer Interaction at the CSIRO. Geremy’s drives research around digital innovation and transformation, ehealth and sustainability.






Special Issue: Designing Participation for the Digital Fringe