Robots’ largely positive, somewhat equivocal role in therapy for children with autism and cerebral palsy (HIMSS)

A Georgia Tech study presented at this week’s HIMSS19 conference presented findings of an eight-week study of children with specific neurological conditions who were assisted by robotics in specific therapies for movement and cognition. The study began with the simple attraction of children to robots. Robots also don’t have the negative connotations of therapists, and in fact, based on the studies cited, robots  are more trusted than humans by both adults and children.

For a child, robots ‘repetitive and predictable interactions’ can be reassuring (like Pepper in a Belgium hospital two years ago) , along with ‘gamified’ therapies and child-robot direct interaction as well as therapist-guided. The study’s approaches took several forms:

  • Virtual reality therapy games
  • Guided physiotherapy in movement–gross and fine motor skills
  • Cognitive therapy to improve attention span
  • ‘Gamified’ therapy
  • Robot therapy coaching
  • Tablet-based games

At the start of the study, physical and cognitive baselines were taken and retested at four weeks. By eight weeks the difference in movement parameters between normally developing children and those with cerebral palsy had largely equalized. In a second study, when the robots were withdrawn, their improvement decreased, but not back to baseline. The researchers’ concern was of course, dependency on the robots for therapy on a long term basis. HIMSS presentation by Ayanna Howard, professor of robotics at Georgia Tech is currently online–view quickly as usually they are withdrawn shortly after HIMSS is over.  Mobihealthnews

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