For nearly 50 years, educators and robotics professionals have known that robots help kids with special needs learn. As our Founder and Chief Scientist, Tim Gifford, has been quoted saying, “As far back as the 1970s, research has shown that children with special needs respond well to robots and that their interactions are effective.”
This is especially true for children with autism. With an increase in autism awareness and understanding, more children in the United States than ever before are being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 54 kids in the United States has been diagnosed with autism.
Why Use Robots?
There are many reasons why Robot-Assisted Instruction (RAI) helps children with autism learn and succeed in school and life.
As Tim Gifford puts it, “Adults and other children can be very off-putting for a child with autism. Interacting with the robots is more consistent, simpler, and is never judgmental. It makes interactions less stressful.” Children with autism who have difficulties understanding social cues, such as facial expressions, verbal or non-verbal gestures are able to interact with robots more easily because those communication barriers do not exist. Since RAI is a less stressful way of educating children with autism, robots are an effective technology for special education instruction.
Additionally, robots can give children with autism what a human practitioner cannot: tireless repetition and consistency. Children with autism learn best through repetition. It can be challenging for teachers and therapists to provide repeated instruction that is engaging and fun, but also consistent and predictable. Robot-Assisted Instruction is an excellent solution to this challenge! Research shows that robots provide children with autism the repetition they need while making learning exciting and captivating.
Finally, robots can become a permanent fixture in both special education and regular education classrooms. With RAI, there are so many possibilities for continuity of learning! Systems can be tailored and preprogrammed with child profiles so that interactions are personalized and track student progress goals. RAI systems can be used one-on-one or in small group settings for academic and/or social interventions. Students can view their classroom robot as a teacher’s aide and can learn in a fun new way!
Our Years-Long Passion for Robot-Assisted Instruction for Children with ASD
Our story began in 2008. At the time, Tim Gifford was researching social robots at the University of Connecticut. His wife, an educator, shared with him how more children were being diagnosed with ASD. She also commented that there were few trained therapists and resources to help these students succeed in school. Tim realized that his robotics research could help kids with ASD in the classroom; robots could fill the resource gap.
Our Specialized Team Develops Several Robots for Autism
When Tim Gifford decided to launch our company, he knew he needed the right team. While he was an expert in robotics, he recognized that he needed company leaders to join him: leaders who were top special education professionals.
Today, our team is a perfect blend of top robotics and special education experts. Our leadership team members and advisors have a strong desire to help children with autism succeed in the classroom and community. From non-verbal children to high-functioning children with autism, Robot-Assisted Instruction has been proven to help children with autism learn and grow.