Kaspar the friendly robot helps autistic kids

AP photo: Eden Sawczenko reacts to 'Kaspar' the robot who is showing the 'Happy' stance of two open arms.

Eden Sawczenko used to recoil when other little girls held her hand and turned stiff when they hugged her. This year, the 4-year-old autistic girl began playing with a robot that teaches about emotions and physical contact–and now she hugs everyone.

“She’s a lot more affectionate with her friends now and will even initiate the embrace,” said Claire Sawczenko, Eden’s mother.

The girl attends a pre-school for autistic children in Stevenage, north of London, where researchers bring in a human-looking, child-sized robot once a week for a supervised session. The children, whose autism ranges from mild to severe, play with the robot for up to 10 minutes alongside a scientist who controls the robot with a remote control.…Read More

Scientists look to help children with autism find a voice

CNN reports that when Ryan Wallace got a diagnosis of autism at age 2, his parents never thought they’d hear him speak. “He used to make noises. When he wanted something he would just point,” says Ryan’s father, Gerald David Wallace. “Or he would scream.” Therapists say that’s not unusual for someone with Ryan’s condition. According to doctors, many children with autism have difficulty understanding information from the outside world.  “The brain’s ability to process information comes in from the eyes, ears and other senses during infancy,” says Dr. Mark Wallace, an expert on sensory processing who directs the Vanderbilt Brain Institute who is not related to Ryan.”If that [ability] is compromised during the early developmental period, you will never be able to really gain full function in these systems.” Because these children lack the ability to understand this auditory information, it can prevent them from developing any form of language and therefore their ability to communicate. Some stages of autism make it hard for children to comprehend sounds, words, expressions and even inflections…

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