Robot Helps Children With Autism

1 in 68 U.S. Children Has an Autism Spectrum Disorder

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According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder.

But now, a technological breakthrough is connecting with autistic children in ways in which adults have never been able.

Milo the robot is partially plastic, two feet tall and a rising giant in the autism community.

This robot, programmed to teach kids about a wide range of social interactions, is proving more successful than humans in helping children with autism by a long shot.

Pamela Rollins, who has studied communication disorders for years, worked with a company called ‘Robokind’ to develop Milo.

“All children with autism have problems with social interactions, but they’re really good at technology, and so Milo creates that bridge, where he is humanoid, has a human face, but is cartoonish so children in the spectrum are engaged with him,’ said Rollins who works at UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders.

Children with autism often have a hard time talking with or even looking at human therapists, but they light up with Milo.

“We found that especially with the fluent children, they were engaged with Milo 87 percent of the time. We also looked at how much they were engaged with the therapist when she tried to talk to them, it was about three percent,” said Rollins.

The robot speaks 20 percent slower than an average human and he has a broad, but still limited, range of facial expressions, so he is less likely to display emotions that get in the way of learning.

“He can repeat it over. If you don’t get it, he can repeat it over and over and over and over and over and never get frustrated. Say it in exactly the same way, take his time,” said Rollins.

Autistic kids need a lot of repetition, according to Rollins.

They also need a lot of Milos.

The CDC says one out of every 68 children born in this country has some form of autism, and Rollins is convinced a great many could benefit from a friend like this.
 

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