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New initiative pairs kids with autism and an expressive robot to help them understand emotion

Posted at 8:03 PM, Jun 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-13 20:03:14-04

CINCINNATI -- One of the biggest challenges children with autism spectrum disorders face is learning to recognize the subtle cues in body language and facial expression that form a silent but significant part of human communication.

At the Hamilton County Educational Service Center, at least, some students have a new teacher: Milo, a social instruction robot created by Robots4Autism. 

Milo has a robotic body with a humanlike face that can express a wide variety of emotions, according to Robots4Autism's website. He comes programmed with lessons meant to help students with autism match his expressions to the feelings he represents.

"With Milo, he's always the same," education center worker Teresa Clevidence said. "He always looks the same, he speaks at the same rate, he gives those same cues all the time. It helps them to really pick up on those cues and learn it."

And he never gets tired or frustrated, meaning students who work with him should come away with a positive experience rather than shame over having misinterpreted a cue, according to Robots4Autism's website.

The Hamilton County Educational Service Center has tested Milo with students in three area schools.