How Robots Are Helping Kids With Autism

Do you have a child or someone you know who has autism? If so, then you will be aware that autistic children find it hard to form social relationships. However, kids with autism do get better at communication and social relationships when they are provided with adequate help. Such aid includes robots which immensely assist in improving the social skills of children with autism.

One may wonder, how can a robot help autistic children any better than humans? The answer to this lies in the understanding of people and how they work. Humans are a complex creature, and their communication is complicated too. It is a mixture of various aspects including eye contact, gestures, emotional cues, sarcasm, non-verbal signs and content. For an autistic child, it is hard to grasp all these aspects at once.

Moreover, children do not perceive robots to have any demands or expectations. For an autistic child, holding a conversation with a human is more daunting than talking to a robot because even someone who has autism can sense the annoyance or expectations humans have when talking and it is something they wish to avoid.

A robot, on the other hand, can break these aspects and approach them one at a time. Not only are they more approachable and less intimidating than individuals, but they also tend to trigger social responses and motivate children to hold a conversation. Interacting with a robot is initially fueled by curiosity, which then transforms into a unique bond where the child finds themselves relaxed around the robot.

leka robot playing with autistic child

Many institutions are looking into co-therapy with robots where rather than just giving automated responses to the gadget, a speech and behavioral therapist talk through it via a microphone. Since kids are more inclined towards gadgets, such a combination can yield better results. This inclination is the reason that many robots helping kids with autism are now being produced.

NAO – A Possible Tool for Enhanced Social Interactions

Researchers are always trying to find ground-breaking techniques which can make everyone's lives better. Many try to do so either by finding cures to diseases or things which can alleviate symptoms or by contributing to making life easier for people with a given ailment. Whether it is research on organ cloning or building a robot, it is safe to say that all of it matters.

NAO is the result of one such study conducted by a team of researchers at Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. It is a robot with multiple human-like functions like speaking, walking and dancing. Even though the robot has only been launched as a pilot study, vast improvements in increased social interaction have been observed in the subjects of the study.

The reason that this pilot study was successful is that the robot could be customized to limit the communication abilities of the gadget according to the needs of the child. Since autism manifests to a different extent in different people, one kid who has autism may require more help than the next kid. Hence, the customization feature can accommodate such different needs.

The team is currently working on proving the effectiveness of the product in a controlled environment before it can be launched on a bigger scale.

NAO helps us understand the crux of it all. It aids us in deciphering how a robot can be used to improve the social skills of those who have autism.

Pilot Project in Progress

Many researchers are currently working on the development of robots that could contribute to improving social skills in autistic children. Most of such studies are currently in the pilot stage where the effects of the designed robots on kids with autism are being observed under a controlled environment before launching the product for the masses.

One such robot is Zeno, the creation of Dr. Dan Popa and David Hanson along with a team, which has a face like that of an animated character of a movie. This gadget can mimic the gestures and facial expressions of the controller. It is not only able to effectively interact with children with autism, but it can also be used to diagnose them via their speech patterns and interactions. Such a robot has great potential to be a co-therapist in real life since it can combine the actual speech of a therapist to the more approachable persona of a robot.

Autism Robots - 2017

Owing to the ever-developing technology, autism robots are now coming to light and are proving to be more successful than humans in developing social skills in autistic people.

Buddy by Blue Frog Robotics

Buddy is a well-known personal house robot. However, what a lot of individuals don't know is that it is also equipped with the power of being the perfect companion for autistic children. It plays an integral part in developing the much-needed skills in autistic children.

How? By telling them stories, playing games with them, and prompting them to do simple exercises. These activities ensure that not only autistic kids come out of their bubble of isolation but they also form a bond with the robot, which they commonly fail to do with humans.

Those who have used the product have reported a drastic improvement in the mood and social skills of their autistic children, so it can be said that the product delivers what it promises.

Milo by Robots4Autism

Milo, who looks like a character from an animated movie, is equipped with various human-like features which allow it to have a realistic yet approachable persona that children with ASD can bond with. Not only can it talk and walk, but it can also model various facial expressions of humans.

With the help of this product, people with autism can learn how to show empathy, detect emotions when conversing with people, and find out more about the socially appropriate way of holding a conversation.

Since such characteristics are what people with autism commonly lack, the fact that a robot can help in the development of these traits is exemplary.

Rent-A-Robot - International Robotics

International Robotics Inc. allows you to rent a robot which is marked by enhanced social and entertainment features. Not only can this robot be used for corporate meetings and trade shows, but it can also be used to keep those with ASD entertained.

Since autistic people find it easier to bond with gadgets, this product is the perfect vessel to keep them entertained. Your child can have fun and even dance with the robot. While it may not be equipped with features which will improve your child's social skills, it is surely a treat that will make a child's day, even for those who do not have autism.

Leka Autism Robot

Some researchers believe those who have ASD tend to respond better to gadgets than humans. Therefore, researchers suggest that professionals should take help from autism robots to ensure greater improvement in people with ASD. Leka is such a co-therapist which can aid a child with ASD. This robot is equipped with educational games and motivates interactions which improve emotional and cognitive skills.

Zeno by Hanson Robotics

Zeno is one of the many interactive robots that have been proven to improve social and communication skills in people with autism. It is equipped with the ability to diagnose as well as interact with the concerned child in a way which is beneficial for them.

The robot is equipped with the ability to focus on one aspect of communication at a time, thereby making it easier for someone with ASD to follow through.

If you have an autistic child, remember that your child has the power to communicate with you. All they need is a little help. Provide your kids with the help they require. Your child deserves the best of all. Robots do a great job at helping children in many ways.

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