Meet the Robots

Dan Portenier, left, selects responses for the robot while Jennifer Zona directs the therapy session.

On Thursday, June 14, we will be presenting, “Conversation with Brendan:  Robots, Grandkids and Autism.”  For those who will not be able to attend, I thought I would provide you with a brief update on the project. 

Planning for the project began last fall when Jen and Dan traveled to Notre Dame to meet with Joshua Diehl, PhD, professor and primary investigator in this study.  Preparation continued throughout the fall and spring, and the project kicked off at the end of April. 

During the presentation, Jen Zona and Dan Portenier, board-certified behavior analysts, will introduce you to the robots and explain how they will be used to help children with autism interact more easily with others. The study will chart the effectiveness of adding robots to therapy sessions as a way to help children more easily understand social cues and emotional behaviors.

 Four children and adolescents between 3 and 17 years of age from the Elizabeth Lee Black School with an autism diagnosis are participating in the initial pilot project. Some of the preliminary results indicate:

  • Presentation of the robot has increased the rate of acquisition.
  •  Interactive robot does motivate the children. 
  • Toy play skills have increased.

Preliminary data from the research is promising.  Essential to success is the generalization of the learned skills across people and environments.  Data will continue to be collected and closely analyzed on the frequency of the skills displayed in a child’s natural environment.  This will determine whether the robot is truly effective. 

The presentation will be held at the Barber National Institute in Erie, PA from 6–7:30 p.m. For further information, contact Joyce Krahe McDonnell at JoyceMcDonnell@BarberInstitute.org. Reservations are requested by calling Family Support Services at (814) 878-5961.

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2 Responses to Meet the Robots

  1. Sallie Newsham says:

    Maureen, I am sad to say I will be out of town and will be unable to attend. I think it is very promising and very cool that you are involved it his pilot. I came to the initial information session and was quite impressed with what I saw and heard. Good luck! I will look forward to hearing about the progress.

  2. Sallie, call me when you are back in town and I’ll give you an update. Have a safe trip. Enjoy!

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