COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – In a conference room overlooking the Ohio Statehouse, Milo the robot was introduced to some of Central Ohio’s most outspoken supporters of autism therapy.
Robots4Autism, a division of Dallas-based ROBOKIND, created the humanoid robot to teach elementary and middle school age children the understanding and meaning of emotions. Milo also helps children learn appropriate social behavior and responses.
“He can deliver lessons over and over and over again,” said Liz Ralston, Robots4Autism Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “That repetition is important. Milo teaches without getting tired, without getting frustrated.”
The Make It Fit Foundation, a Central Ohio autism charity, is using a $20,000 grant to buy four robots.
Founder and President Mike Hoover wishes Milo was available when his sons, both with autism spectrum disorder, were younger.
“It would’ve been priceless when Adam was young. The engagement he would’ve had with a robot like that would’ve saved us years,” said Hoover.
Hoover, members of his charity, and a therapist got a demonstration on how Milo works Wednesday night.
Milo is designed to be used in a clinical or classroom setting.
It is the only robot in the world programmed to show human facial expressions and emotions. The research based curriculum motivates children with autism how to interact with others. Lessons work on making eye contact, communication and even calming strategies for meltdowns.
Liz Ralston said their research has shown that children working with Milo and a therapist are engaged more than 80 per cent of the time compared to traditional approaches.
“We are seeing kids generalize those skills and carrying them into their homes at night. They are looking at their parents, their family and teachers,” said Ralston.
Jenn Aquero, a behavioral analyst, is working with The Make It Foundation to design a curriculum to include Milo in her daily therapy sessions with children.
“With Milo, it gives them sort of an intermediate safe place to practice some of those skills they learn on a one on one basis,” said Aguero.
A l subscription for Milo, including all maintenance and upgrades, runs $5,000 a year. Hoover is hoping to raise money and create partnerships to bring more of the robots to Ohio.
Ralston said there are Milo robots in 50 school districts across the country. There are 25 to 30 robots being used in clinical settings.
For more information, visit click on Robots4Autism.
The Make It Fit Foundation can be found by clicking here.