Robot helps children with autism learn to communicate

- Can a robot help children understand human communication?

Schools nationwide are introducing a robot to their classrooms to help teach children with autism to communicate. The robot is named Milo, and it helps encourage students to communicate and express themselves. 

"So many kids these days are into electronics and things like that, and Milo can be so much more patient than parents," says Serena Haire. Her son Levi is in the Robots4Autism program.  
 
She says Levi has a hard time expressing what he is thinking or feeling. Since he started the program two months ago at Palmetto Elementary School in South Carolina, she says his communication skills have improved.

"My son loves iPads and anything electronic, and in that aspect Milo is kind of an iPad which just looks like a person, and he reacts better to Milo than he does to his therapist or, you know, Mom or Dad sometimes," Haire says.  

With just the push of a button, Milo can dance, walk and make 11 different facial expressions that show emotion.
 
"I facilitate him and whether the child is doing what they're supposed to be doing, making the correct facial expression, giving the correct answers so he can respond accordingly," explains Allison Thomlinson.    

Each student interacts with Milo for an hour per week. The bionic boy keeps track of each student's progress for every lesson up to three years. The goal is to have all 14 students learn from Milo and complete the program within the three-year time frame. 

"He's a hundred thousand million percent cool," says third grader Malachi McCarty. 
 
Those with an autism spectrum disorder struggle with social cues and eye contact. The robot seems to help children learn those skills, and because it's not in front of other kids, it takes the stress away. 

The cost of the robot is about $5,000. 

If you'd like to learn more about Milo and the program, visit www.robots4autism.com
 

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