Robotic Intervention Therapy investigates on how robotic toys can become tools to creative versatile avenues for development in various conditions related to children with special needs. The toys used in the exercise become social mediators which in turn encourages children with special needs to discover a range of games that ranges from solitary to collaborative play.
The target groups for this therapy are children with Mild Mental Retardation, Severe Motor Impairment and Autism. The objectives are classified with reference to ICF-CY, the International Classification of Functioning – version for Children and Youth. The therapy concentrates on five key developmental areas such as sensory development, communication and interaction, cognitive development, motor development and social and emotional development.
The project’s state of the art research emphasised the important role of play in child development as a crucial vehicle for learning about the physical and social environment, the self, and for developing social relationships. KMVRC has developed certain play robots targeted towards children who are prevented from playing, either due to cognitive, developmental or physical impairments which affect their playing skills, leading to general impairments in their learning potential and more specifically resulting in isolation from the social environment.
Play as Therapy
It is widely accepted that play has a crucial role in a child’s development. During the therapy at KMVRC, we focus on allowing children to learn from their environments and develop cognitive, social and perceptual skills. Research has proven that play is an important part of childhood and its absence provides an obstacle to the development of a healthy child, possibly leading to general impairments in their learning potentials, cognitive development, and may result in isolation from the social environment.
Play therapy for Special needs
For children with special needs, play can be a difficult experience, as they might have limited access to this activity and may show subsequent problems in skill acquisition in various developmental areas. However, their cognitive and social development can be improved by giving them the same play opportunities as their typically-developed peers. In order to do so, it is important to provide them with the right stimuli for their developmental levels, strengths and needs. In that sense, robotic systems can be a valuable tool for children with special needs to learn through play interactions and can help them to reach the developmental steps of their chronological and/or mental ages.
Research shows that robots can provide a focus of attention (Werry et al., 2001) and promote spontaneous, self-regulated play in children with developmental disorders (Kozima et al., 2007a).
At KMVRC, we lay emphasis on what are the specific strengths and needs of each child that enrolls in the robotic intervention program and each play scenario is developed keeping in mind that each child is unique and the five key developmental areas: sensory development, communication and interaction development, motor development, cognitive development and social and emotional development.
Target user groups
Children with physical impairements such as Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Motor impairment, children with cognitive impairments such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders, children with cognitive disabilities such as Mental Retardation, Down syndrome, etc. are part of the group.
Further focus is laid on –
- AUT – children with autism
- MMR – children with mild mental retardation
- SMI – children with severe motor impairment
Social Play Scenarios for Robot Assisted play and Robotic Mediators
Ten play scenarios for robot assisted play and robotic mediator have been developed, adopting the ESAR system (Garon et al., 1996) that identifies four different types of play. These types of play help children to socialize by teaching them how to take turns, observe rules, and respect the opinions and actions of fellow players. Moreover, they have a vital role in learning different types of knowledge and skills, and helping to develop basic interaction functions, memory, attention, communication functions, perceptual and motor skills.
Stay tuned for progress and developments in children at the center undergoing the program. All kinds of progress will be recorded here.