With the tremendous amount of unemployment in the United States, there is one section of employers that, far from suffering, have been rather lacking in qualified hirees and that is in the area of therapists for autistic children.

In the reality of treating autistic children as well, it can be extremely difficult to get comfortable and say that you are well practiced because it really does change from patient to patient and so much very close attention to every single move and blink from them at first as it is crucial to work out the best ways to communicate with patients. What works with one child may put off or even upset another.

Enter robot therapists — which might seem completely counterintuitive at first when dealing with children that have various levels of autism given the complete lack of genuine emotion and empathy that you can expect to get out of the average robot. It nevertheless makes sense if you consider that the eye cameras of the robot captures every single movement that the child makes and its processors can subsequently react appropriately.

In the article, one of the robots moves toward the patient and when it senses that the child has begun backing away, it immediately stops moving toward the child and instead beckons for him to come toward it. This change of tactic turns out to be exactly what the child wanted and it goes toward the robot therapist.

Lest you think that the robot is doing everything on its own, rest assure that there are still programmers in the background prompting the robot when to talk and when to remain silent. I suppose that there is more to being a therapist than what it takes to make the robot run because otherwise there would be no need for the robots at all.

I don’t think that robots are the future of autism therapy. Rather, I think that we need to interest more people — real human beings into coming into the field of therapy for autistic children. No matter how fast a robot reacts, it cannot have the same warmth and love that another person will have. It is that warmth and love that autism therapists need to work with their patients.

4 Comments

  1. I’m thinking (and I could be wayyyy off base) but robots, as you mentioned ARE completely LOGICAL.
    Removing portions of the human element (the need for acceptance, fear of rejection by parent or patient, perfume, funny hairdos, the roller coaster of emotions that comes with life) could be just the answer. The robot doesn’t care a fig about what ‘it’, as a robot, thinks. It’s reacting completely on programming. It’s not working based on the weather, the bad night he/she had with the kids the night before, ire at the hubby over not picking up after himself, or the wife because she shouldn’t have spent so much, it’s working on/for the the patient only.
    By having the human behind robot, it evens the human roller coaster, and could just work.
    Autistic children are extremely smart, and though I’ve not studied them per se, the exposure I have had to some of their characteristics reflects nothing but logic.
    I’d like to see how this progresses. 🙂

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