Robots offer a new approach for autisitic kids

April 11, 2013 3:05:42 PM PDT
Unlocking the mind of children with autism can take many different and creative approaches.

Humans can do wonders but there's something about robots that seems to make children respond.

Look at what researchers at Vanderbilt University have built and are now testing.

Like most children, Aiden likes to play but one of his playmates is special-it's a two foot robot.

Aiden has autism spectrum disorder and in this interactive room, researchers are watching how he responds to his experiment high tech friend.

Infrared lights on Aiden's hat signal to cameras around the room when he responds - telling the robot to change its reply.

"We demonstrated that if the children were really more interested towards the robot than human therapists then the robot might be able to use this engagement to some beneficial activities," Dr. Nilanjan Sarkar of Vanderbilt University said.

Vanderbilt University is providing this video which shows the research works.

They are finding that young autistic children spent significantly more time looking at the robot than a typically developing child did.

And capturing attention is critical for early intervention treatment.

"To pull that attention to that humanoid robot, to build up some of these skills such as following the robot's gaze, following the point, then we are able to work with that and transfer it over to humans," Dr. Julie Crittendon of Vanderbilt University said.

The robot therapy would not take the place of a therapist but it creates another treatment tool.

The hope is that child's play with a robot helps improve life for Aiden and other kids like him.