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Jake, 14, had struggled to keep his anxiety levels low. As someone with autism, Jake will often become overwhelmed and agitated in the classroom and need help calming back down. “When he came to his group session, his attentive skills and interest in participating was at a minimum,” said Jean Graham, a speech-language pathologist at Broome-Tioga BOCES.

However, Jake was introduced to a new friend who helped him overcome a few of his own personal struggles at school. Because of Milo, Jake is now able to keep calm and focus on his lessons while showing how quickly he learns. “What is amazing,” Graham said, “is his engagement level, interaction, and improved ability to listen while following directions. If he does start getting that sense of anxiety or agitation, I can go right into the Calm Down module and work that out with him.”

When Jake first started with Milo, lessons focused on learning the visuals and getting used to Milo’s way of teaching. But Jake has taken it one step further. “I made a visual choice board of the lesson options,” Graham said. “He has been observed to pick up an icon before Milo says it, demonstrating the true level of his awareness and memory. You can definitely get a better sense of his talents and skills that might not come out with a traditional interaction.”

Playing games like Red Light, Green Light with Milo gives students like Jake a sense of control and power in the relationship. “They have the ability to tell the robot what to do, and you see that connection and shared experience,” Graham said. “If they communicate with the robot by doing this, they can direct where their path will go and eventually become more aware of their ability to have an immediate impact in their world.”

From there, Graham said, “It’s about working on those basic skills. If you think of a tree, these skills are the roots. Interaction by sharing experiences with other people is very important for successful social development.” Jake has even replicated some of the greetings he learned from Milo while in the hallways with other students, showing that his work with the robot has truly transformed his interactions with other people.

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