My 8-year-old daughter is currently being evaluated for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I also have a nephew and cousins back home in England who are both on the spectrum. Robots4Autism (R4A) has unexpectedly become a resource for me to learn effective ways to interact meaningfully with my children. Tools such as Milo’s Calm Down Module have helped relax my daughter when she has had temper tantrums. Ultimately, R4A has helped shape me into a better father. Like so many other success stories I’ve heard, my story illustrates the impact that Milo can make on these children’s lives.
My entire career has been dedicated to helping others. After working in countries like India, China, and the Philippines, I came to the U.S. to find a company that matched my values, one that emphasized putting others first, one that was truly making a difference in people’s lives. For the past few years, I’ve been doing all those things as an account manager at R4A.
If someone were to ask me to describe my job in just a couple sentences, I would say: “Imagine reading the first page of a book, then jumping straight to the last. I’m the one reading you what happened between those pages.” As an account manager at R4A, my work is inspired by children with ASD and the opportunities we have to dramatically improve their quality of life as well as for those who love and surround them. I assist clients in so many ways, by ensuring they understand the curriculum that we provide and by guiding them through every step of their journey with helpful advice.
My experience working abroad has shown me that other countries and even the U.S. are lagging behind when it comes to understanding what ASD is and how we can help those on the spectrum. Now, this topic is coming to light and the stigma behind ASD is being challenged. ASD has been discussed for more than 70 years, but has recently become prevalent with key events like in 1977, when research found that autism is largely caused by genetics and biological differences in brain development. More recently, in 2013 ASD was put into an umbrella diagnosis defined by two categories. It’s a monumental time to be involved in a company that is helping address this issue.
I have a passion to give back and my work allows me to do so, but my position with R4A extends well beyond that. From speaking with customers to getting to know their children, it has provided me keen insights into the world of ASD. I take the time to look into data and metrics so I can speak to what clients are currently using Milo for, and help them address any current struggles by finding easy and useful strategies for using him in the classroom. Because of these interactions, I can identify with their situation to assist them with their struggles along the way.
Approaching ASD Challenges with Milo
When most of us think of ASD, a long list of terms probably come to mind. Maybe it’s social deficits or language impairment. While these are certainly symptoms, it takes time, research, and personal interactions to truly understand the impact that ASD has on children and their families.
Autism tends to last for a person’s entire life and can present as symptoms such as sleep disorders, OCD, and hyperactivity. Historically, therapy and intervention have tended to be the most significant remedies, but despite best efforts, they are still falling short. It’s time for us to accept the challenge of taking a new approach to improving the lives and long-term outlook for these special students.
In a recent study, nine children ages 5-14 with ASD reported performing and engaging better with Milo than with a human therapist. When Milo was teaching them, they engaged 88% of the time, but when Milo was missing from the equation, the students engaged only 3% of the time.
A lot of the challenges we hear about at R4A relate to a child having a problem coming out of his or her “shell.” Knowing Milo has played a prominent role in helping students across the world, and seeing him work with my daughter, I am a firm believer that he can make a difference not only for students with ASD, but for their teachers, too.
Just as we entice our ASD students to come out of their shell with Milo, we look to entice those working with these same ASD students to come out of theirs and embrace technology that can help them change outcomes and truly change the lives of the students they work with. The question is, will we adults accept this challenge?
Terrence Pires is an account manager at Robots4Autism.