How a New Model of Autism Treatment Uses Robots
There are a growing number of assistive therapy (AT) tools to help students with Autism Spectrum Disorder to work independently and navigate classroom routines. Not all AT tools are high-tech: They can be simple, adaptive tools like highlighters and organizers, automatic page-turners, or book holders. They can also be high-tech tools like robots.
Robots facilitate discovery and enhance opportunities for play, learning, and cognitive development. Using robots in play contexts can also help track changes in cognitive development by the child, and may contribute to improved cognitive understanding. Success with robot tasks can be a way for children to demonstrate their knowledge of cognitive concepts without the limitations of standardized testing.
Recent research has found that children with ASD are more comfortable interacting with robots than with humans. That being said, an anthropomorphic form is essential to robot design. Children with intellectual disabilities often struggle with traditional educational tools, but kids like robots because they seem like big toys. When children interact with robots, they are freed from the worry of being criticized for their behavior, and feel good about interacting with a robot because it’s “cool.” Robots also provide the sensory integration support that’s a best practice in working with kids with ASD.