Friday, September 4, 2009
Medical Reports: Autism
Having an autistic child can be challenging for parents and doctors alike. One of the hardest parts is the child's inability to express emotions and feelings in tonight's Healthcast, Richard Lemus shows us how doctors are using robots to break through.
WSVN -- Parents of autistic children say they often can only watch as their children slip away.
Autistic children often lose the ability to express feelings or emotions, but a new robot may be able to do it for them.
Tonya Mirtes: "Just with this robot it was able to keep him engaged."
Sixteen-year-old Daniel Mirtes has autism.
Daniel Mirtes: "You shoot hoops, and if I'm stressed out, then it will slow down."
It looks like he's playing basketball, but he's actually hooked up to a robot. The robot records Daniel's heart rate, skin temperature and muscle movements literally reading and responding to his moods.
Nilanjan Sarkar: "If the robot determines that the child is getting stressed out, the robot will change, for example, the speed of the game, may play relaxing music."
And watching the kids on the robot is helping doctors read their moods.
Wendy Stone: "The amazing thing is you can put it all together and learn what a child is feeling."
Doctors hope to understand what causes anxiety and calmness something autistic kids can't put into words.
Wendy Stone: "If we can adapt our behavior, we're going to have much more success."
Researchers found robots predicted the child's emotional state correctly more than 80 percent of the time. That's better than most therapists and researchers believe if they can detect when a child us becoming upset or anxious, they can find a way to intervene.
Meaning robots could be the key to helping humans understand autism.
Richard Lemus: "Researchers are working on other robot programs as well. They're also working on creating a smaller version of the robot, so parents can work with it at home."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Vanderbilt University Medical Center