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For families eager to meet with autism specialists, wait times have become a persistent and taxing issue. In many cases, waits can even be sustained over a year. In addition to the dilemma, there’s also the concern of children with autism who live in more rural communities, where travel costs, even for healthcare reasons, can quickly become expensive.

Several programs have been established, and strides taken to address this issue, which RoboKind intends to participate in solving through their Robots4Autism program. Robots4Autism could be used as a contingency along with other efforts, such as the University of Missouri’s ECHO Autism program, which has been conceived to train primary care givers in the methods of diagnosis and management related to autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Along with the proposed expansion of ECHO, with additional sites in rural areas of Alabama, Alaska and under-served Navajo communities in Arizona and New Mexico, overseen by director and associate professor of child health Kristin Sohl, the Milo robot can be incorporated as a collaborative outreach effort, bringing resource to more isolated children with autism for the benefit of socialization and education.

The achievements made by ECHO Autism provide a highly rewarding opportunity for the inclusion of Robots4Autism, with initial success already making Sohl and her staff prepare for even their aforementioned expansion.

“The success we have seen in Missouri and in other areas where ECHO Autism has been replicated means that this model can work in even more remote areas,” Sohl said. “Expanding the program from Africa to Alaska will help families around the world.”

While ECHO can extend its reach to children with autism in rural communities, RoboKind is able to bring immersion, interactivity and connectivity to those communities, offering substantial support for children even while programs like ECHO work to reduce wait time. Through the Robots4Autism Curriculum and the use of a humanoid social robot named Milo, children with autism can be provided with an effective method to reach their developmental goals along the way.

No amount of rural isolation or circumstance should keep children with autism from reaching for fulfilled, improved developmental skills and lives. By learning to express and recognize emotions more appropriately in social situations and to self-motivate, children with autism can be given a helping hand in connecting them with the general population, no matter which corner of the world they might find themselves in.

The story was originally published in Science Daily and can be found at sciencedaily

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