Why Use Robots with Children with Autism? (part 3)

Back in May this year I posted two articles (1, 2) explaining a little about why robots are being used to help children with autism, and how they are being used. As I said back then, this is early days for this kind of work, and there is still a lot to learn and discover.

In this article I would like to expand on some of the things mentioned at the end of part 2, and I will do this by introducing two of the success stories where Nao has helped children start to achieve their potential. 

One of the people who has been involved at Topcliffe Primary School is Dr Karen Guldberg, Director of the Autism Centre for Education and Research at Birmingham University. She has written a very interesting piece about why Nao works at Topcliffe and illustrated it with the following story about Daniel:

"Daniel is a lovely seven year-old boy with autism who enjoys playing with Max and Ben, the two NAO robots in his school. At the end of an event we organized at the school in November 2012, Daniel stood up on the stage and made an impromptu speech to an audience in the main hall of the school. He opened it with: “Ladies and Gentlemen, please listen to me. I have something important to tell you.”

He then proceeded to give the listeners a beautiful and imaginative ‘stream of consciousness’ speech welcoming everybody to his ‘robot museum’. His impromptu talk included a description about how the robots worked and how much he loved them. He held up postcards with pictures of NAO and his friend acted as his assistant. Daniel used the postcards to explain to the audience what NAO could do, how many different robots there were and what colours they were.

I cannot do Daniel justice or capture the magic of his words here, but I can tell you it was one of the high points of my year. The work with the robots had given this child the confidence to stand up in front of a big group of adults and give a speech. It had motivated him to find out all sorts of things about the robot, which he then explained to the audience. It helped him work in partnership with his friend who also has autism. And this is a child who has difficulties with social communication."

read more from 'Why Use Robots with Children with Autism? (part 3)'

Posted: 13/01/2015 15:52:27 by Emotion Robotics

Why Use Robots with Children with Autism? part 2

In the first part of this blog post we discussed what autism was and the scale of the affect of autism on our world. Today we will get into the meat of the discussion, Why Use Robots with Children with Autism?

Firstly, an observation: Many children affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder seem to be drawn to technology.

I have seen this discussed and commented on in a number of places on the internet but I have also observed this myself. I met a family with a 12 year old son who has been diagnosed with autism. In the afternoon we spent together, (we were at a Nao development event as his Dad is also a member of the Nao Developer Program), I noticed that he was most content when playing on his iPad. So surely we can use this natural attraction to technology to help autistic children?

Well, there are mixed opinions about this. Haifa University Professor Tamar Weiss, a leading expert on the use of technology in autism research, said, in a Times of Israel article;

“Kids are attracted to technology, and computers and devices like iPads can appear to help draw autistic kids out of their shell, but sometimes that attraction is not a good thing. Kids with autism ignore social interactions, so they often feel very comfortable with computers, because using them is a singular activity. They can sit with an iPad for a whole day and never look up even once.”

Weiss continued that the real trick was to leverage the attraction to technology into an activity to make the child more social.

Enter our robot friends, or more specifically, enter our humanoid robot friends.

read more from 'Why Use Robots with Children with Autism? part 2'

Posted: 13/01/2015 15:20:47 by Emotion Robotics

Why use Robots with Children with Autism (part 1)

Since I have been talking about my Nao work with autism and Aldebaran Robotic's launch of their ASK (Assist Kids with Robots) Nao community, a number of people have asked what use are robots to autistic kids and how are they used.

Well, firstly, some 4 years ago, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Nao Developer Program, and then doubly lucky that some of my Nao programs have been useful to the Autistic community. This has enabled me to be involved in something truly amazing, something that has actually changed people's lives and, as it grows, will help a lot more. So this is a layman's view, probably wrong in places, but it a snapshot of my current view of this area and my limited understanding.

What is Autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is described by The National Autism Society of the United Kingdom as:

“....a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people and the world around them.
It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain areas of difficulty, their condition will affect them in different ways. Asperger syndrome is a form of autism.”

read more from 'Why use Robots with Children with Autism (part 1)'

Posted: 13/01/2015 15:00:02 by Emotion Robotics
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