A Hong Kong professor has developed an educational program using role-playing robots to help children with autism improve their social skills, part of an initiative adopted by non-profit groups and schools.
The program, Robot for Autism Behavioral Intervention (RABI), is designed for people with autism between the ages of 3 and 18, and aims to help them be more social and to resolve issues such as conflicts and bullying.
Catherine So, associate professor of educational psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Reuters more than 1,200 children have used the program since its 2015 launch.
“Individuals with autism have low motivation to interact with others, and hypersensitivity to the world around them,” So said. “So we use the social robots to teach them social skills in order to reduce their anxiety.”
Muse Wong, 41, said her 5-year-old daughter has been in the program for seven months and her social and communicative skills have improved vastly.
“She has started to have some degree of social life”, Wong said.
After interacting with the robots, the children are encouraged to try out their social skills with a human tutor.
“We believe RABI can help children with autism improve their social and behavioural skills, and in turn enhance the quality of their life”, she said.