In Shelby, Ohio, Milo is hard at work helping Joshua Plante learn facial expressions. The Mansfield News Journal, an online publication, joins Joshua as he works through lesson plans with Milo.
“I was surprised that he watched all the facial expressions,” Kelly Zakrajsek, Joshua’s mother and intervention specialist at Shelby High School, tells News Journal.
Those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have difficulties looking at others or holding eye-contact, but with Milo, ASD learners watch in absolute fascination as the little robot smiles and frowns. Some children will go so far as to mimic the expressions shown.
To make sure that children aren’t just memorizing the movement, Robots4Autism’s curriculum takes ASD learners through different situations and games to test their comprehension. The lessons are displayed on a tablet for the student to interact with, and a random generator makes sure that pictures are never shown in the same place twice. Milo also records a student’s progress, which helps educators like Zakrajsek know what skills they can grasp and what skills still need work.
Currently, Milo is on loan to Shelby High School from the Make it Fit Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping children with autism. Zakrajsek hopes to purchase a robot for her district, which is collecting donations. Two High School seniors from Shelby, Karli Ingle and Ellie Korbas, donated the proceeds from this year’s Autism 5K Color Walk / Run toward the donation efforts as well.
“If the district is able to buy one of the robots, she will take it from building to building to work with students of all ages,” Zakrajsek told News Journal.