This radio story was originally published by Prairie Public Broadcasting. View the full story here.
An elementary school in St. John is the first in the state to use a humanoid robot to help autistic students learn social skills. Dr. Sherry Tandeski is Principal for St. John Elementary.
"His name is Milo and he comes from RoboKind, and he is programmed with a curriculum and he works through different lessons to teach the kids how to cool down how to deal with different social situations, different skills that some of us might take for granted that kids with autism aren't so good at. It helps them practice those skills, and it also teaches those students that have behavioral issues how to deal with those behaviors. We have a lot of students right now that are going through the calming techniques, there are five specific strategies that he works with them on and the students practice them with him as well."
Milo the robot currently serves students from pre-K to eighth grade and Dr. Tandeski says that the students are already responding well to the lessons.
"Just the technique it brings, it's so cool to see the kids' reactions. It's like play therapy, but it's not. I could sit there and work with them on the different cool-down techniques and they probably would respond but not as much as we've seen them respond to the robot. Because the robot is consistent, his vocal tonnage is 80%, not 100%, it doesn't slow down or speed up, the kids respond to that. The data I read on the research shows that students that work with him in a year's time went from eye contact and social responses at 5% now after doing this curriculum with the robot, it's over 80%."
The school hopes to expand the robot’s lessons to older grades.