The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A High-Tech Helper for Students with ASD

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have difficulty with basic social interactions, such as making eye contact, saying hello, or even deciphering what a smile or frown means. But thanks to a Dallas-based company, they can now add another member to their team at school who can help them learn, understand, and practice appropriate social behavior and build confidence in their skills. His name is Milo and he’s two feet tall with spiky brown hair and a superhero-style uniform.

He’s also a robot.

Milo’s face is covered with Frubber, a soft synthetic skin that’s pliant enough to replicate human expressions. Two versions are available: a walking, gesturing Milo and a less-expensive model with the same expressive head but a static body. Created by RoboKind, Milo models facial expressions, speaks—slowly, to help students process what he’s saying more easily—and displays symbols on a chest screen with cues from a tablet-equipped educator who lets Milo know when a child has responded correctly.

Since last fall, RoboKind has been partnering with the Autism Society of America on Robots4Autism, a nationwide school grant program to integrate curriculum delivered by Milo for children ages 5-17. The grants allow interested schools to complete the purchase of their own Milo.

It’s recommended that children spend 30-60 minutes with Milo and an instructor or therapist at least three times per week. One of Milo’s big advantages is that he can teach the same skills over and over with the positive consistency that autistic children need. He never gets tired or frustrated or impatient.

RoboKind has also brought out Robots4STEM, a K-12 curriculum to teach the basics of robotics and coding using Milo’s robot sibling, Jett, and the JettLingo visual programming language.

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