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“For Kids On The Autism Spectrum, This Little Robot Could Make A Big Difference”


Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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This April 22, 2014 article on the WESA Pittsburgh NPR Station’s website includes an audio version also, but talks about a robot named Romibo that is designed to help kids who have Autism learn to communicate better.  The robot is controlled by the therapist, and in my opinion kind of looks like a colorful imitation of Cousin It the idea behind Romibo is to encourage communication while decreasing the need for children with Autism to need to interpret facial expressions as well as the words they are hearing.  Romibo has digitized eyes that have some animation to them but compared to the human face, the expressiveness of Romibo is very minimal.  The designer is hoping that this little robot will help bridge the communication gap between therapists and kids with Autism.


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“Author describes ‘Out of Sync Child’”


This article was found in the April 28, 2009 edition of the Warren Times Observer and can be seen in its origial format at …. http://www.timesobserver.com/page/content.detail/id/515790.html?nav=5006

A child sits in class, fidgeting. He stretches his shirt over his knees and gnaws on the collar.

Perhaps he has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Maybe not.

Carol Kranowitz, author of “The Out of Sync Child,” explained the effects of sensory processing disorder (SPD) on a child’s behavior during one of two presentations at the Holiday Inn on Monday morning. The event, sponsored by the Forest-Warren Local Interagency Coordinating Council and other groups, attracted more than a 100 people.

For the child stretching his shirt, Kranowitz said, “He is trying to get proprioception.”

Kranowitz explained that there are environmental senses; visual, auditory, smell, taste and touch. In addition, there are body-centered senses of vestibular, which deals with the inner ear and balance, and proprioceptive, which deal with muscle and movement.

SPD is the inability to respond appropriately to ordinary sensory experiences and occurs when the central nervous system processes sensations inefficiently or inaccurately.

“The nervous system is not processing ordinary sensations in a normal way,” she said.

According to Kranowitz, who taught preschool for 25 years, the hallmarks of SPD are avoiding ordinary touch and movement, seeking excessive touch and movement, or difficulty making one’s body cooperate.

“Behavior means something; when a child does that (stretching his shirt over his knees), he is trying to pay attention,” she said.

SPD breaks down into three subcategories; sensory modulation disorder, sensory discrimination disorder and sensory-based motor disorder.

Sensory modulation disorder is comprised of three different sensory problems. The first is sensory over-responsivity, which is when a child has a low threshold for sensations and avoids them.

“Most things that are going on are overwhelming all the time,” she said of the children’s perceptions.

Also under the sensory modulation disorder is sensory under-responsivity, which is when a child requires more stimuli to be receptive.

Kranowitz described a child named “Paul” who was generally unresponsive to class interaction. Then one day, the fire alarm went off and Paul was fascinated with the loud siren and strobe light. The teachers had a hard time pulling him from the classroom. From then on, Kranowitz said she and other teachers approach Paul with a big, loud welcome.

The final part of sensory modulation disorder is sensory seeking or craving, which is when a child searches out more sensory input. Children with this type of SPD are often described as “dare-devilish.”

As Kranowitz continued through the explanation of SPD, she explained why it is important it is to create public awareness about it.

She said, “We hope to get SPD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).”

With entry into the DSM-5, SPD can be recognized by insurance companies and other service providers to give the children necessary therapy. The DSM-5 is scheduled for completion in 2012 and the next one after that is in 2025.

“Can we wait that long?” Kranowitz asked.

SPD, she explained, can co-exist with other disorders such as autism, Asperger syndrome, Down syndrome and many others.

“Whatever the cause of sensory processing problems, the treatment is the same…occupational therapy techniques and sensory intergration,” Kranowitz said. “The person grows into it (SPD) and not out of it.”

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