New technology helps students with autism

Local News

DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — The school district is introducing new technology into its classrooms to help students with autism. It’s expensive, but leaders say it’s going to be a big help to teachers and kids.

Meet Milo.

“I am the the next generation of therapy for students with autism.”

There are 57 kids with different forms of autism in the district. Three robots are in their classrooms.

“Milo is specifically designed by speech pathologists for the skills. So, the curriculum itself lends itself to the skills that kids with autism often struggle with and can help them pick up on social cues and improve their focus.”

Teachers say their kids are fascinated by it.

“As entertaining as I think I am, there’s something about Milo that’s engaging.”

While some may just see a robot, many kids with autism see a friend in Milo.

“He can show you happy and show you upset and the kids can see the way they’re feeling in a robot and not just a person and sometimes they connect better to toys and technology than they do with adults at this point.”

Unlike humans, he never gets tired or frustrated. Milo can record and collect data on each student to track his or her progress with video lessons.

“We have a lot of students that have issues with getting frustrated and possible acting out because of it and Milo walks them through how to calm down.”

He even has a camera on his collar recording students as they practice making facial expressions so they can see how they’re doing. So far, teachers say it’s working.

“They feel like they’re playing when they’re really learning.”

The three robots are at Mark Denman Elementary, Meade Park and North Ridge Middle School. Danville is one of only five school districts in Illinois to have this technology in its classrooms.

The robots aren’t cheap. Three cost more than $17,000. Add the cost of six iPads and the curriculum for three years and the total comes out to almost $50,000. The district paid for about half of it and private donations covered the rest. 

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