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Stories From Main Street: Using A Robot To Help Engage Autistic Children

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RIDGEFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – One school district in Bergen County, N.J. is using a new robot to help teach children with autism.

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported, the 2-foot-tall robot looks like something out of a Star Wars movie and can dance like Michael Jackson.

The humanoid robot made by a French company helps children with autism at Shaler Academy in Ridgefield, N.J.

“They come in, they want to see him, they want to interact with him,” the school’s speech and language specialist Maryellen Paradiso told Adams. “Just the actions that he does and his face. While it is a very plain face, it’s welcoming.”

Peter the robot (credit: Sean Adams/WCBS 880)

Peter the robot (credit: Sean Adams/WCBS 880)

She said Peter the robot helps highly functioning autistic children focus on lessons. The robot also helps children practice verbal communication.

“You notice that he has a very neutral disposition. Seems that it really attracts autistic students,” interim school superintendent Dr. Harry Groveman told Adams. “What we do know is that it captures attention, it gives increased attention span for students that have difficulty focusing.”

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“We’re really hoping that it will elicit more language from our students,” Pat Drimones, supervisor of special education, said.

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