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Robot transforms autistic children's lives in Warren County

Published On: Jun 03 2013 06:24:14 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 03 2013 09:34:15 AM CDT

Robots help kids in class

POHATCONG TWP., N.J. -

He's a two foot tall robot.

"Hello, I'm Pat."

And he's amazing. He stands up by himself, recognizes expressions and sounds, and can even teach.

But the most amazing thing about this robot is how it's captured the imaginations of autistic children at the Warren County Special Services School District.

The staff says it's an incredibly effective tool.

"I can teach them a lesson on social skills myself, but seeing it done through a robot is so much more interesting to them," said speech therapist Sarah Gant. "It brings out more of their personality."

"With a robot giving instruction, giving direction, modeling, it will be consistent all the time, which is incredibly important," added teacher Mary Hevener.

With a teacher's guidance, Pat can teach the special needs students to focus, converse, imitate and learn about emotions.

"All of those are things special needs students struggle with on a daily basis," explained Superintendent Joe Flynn.

The robot is made by French company Aldebaran. Right now, Warren County Special Services School District is in the process of buying Pat for about $21,000. They plan to do fundraisers to re-coup the costs.

"Our ultimate goal is to allow them to have a much higher social and emotional skill set so that they can make some decisions moving forward as they move into adulthood," added Flynn.

He hopes to have Pat in two of the district's classrooms in September. If that goes well, they'll expand.

"It's very exciting for our district and our students," added Hevener.

"It's absolutely amazing," said Gant. "I'm so grateful and happy to be part of this project."