I caught this intriguing and uplifting article in the summer issue of my college’s alumni magazine:
By Alicia Di Rado
Children with autism relate to Maja Matarić’s ’bots
The story is a welcome and hopeful report of a possible breakthrough for autism therapy,
…socially assistive robots can help people, especially those with special needs. Among those who seem to benefit: children on the autism spectrum.
“No one knows why robots work so well with some children with autism. But we and others have observed repeatedly that when many children with autism interact with socially assistive robots, they show behaviors they ordinarily wouldn’t express, especially not with other people,” says Matarić, director of the USC Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems and co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab.
But what really caught my eye (and my heart) was this,
Certainly, Matarić takes a scientific approach to her research on the robots’ benefits to children with autism. Robots should never replace human therapists, she says. But, as a parent, she’s also enthusiastic and hopeful. If robotics technology improves and clinical trials proceed, she expects robots will be used to help certain children with autism within five years.
“For a spectrum disorder like autism, one magic pill isn’t going to happen,” she says. “If use of a robot is affordable and not damaging, why don’t we try it?”
“Why don’t we try it?” See, even the people with credentials and jobs can be amateurs (doing it for the love) just as much as the rest of us poor schlubs cramming our care giving into daily family routines.
Whether the love is because we share flesh and blood with a person in our care, or because someone has a big heart and mind calibrated to embrace the wider world, let’s be thankful for the amateurism that says, “Don’t know if this will work, but let’s give it a shot and see if it helps.”