Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kelly the Robot Helps Kids Tackle Autism

Caitlin Lillis                                                                                                5/9/13
Biology                                                                                             Current Event

            According to a recent study, autistic children who attended therapy with a robot had better social skills, than without having the robot there.  This study was directed toward 19 children that were diagnosed with autism. Within this study, a humanoid robot was used, and this robot happens to be specifically designed for use in education, and also special education. With its short height of about 2 feet, this robot almost appears as if it is a toy. The way the experiment worked is that children from ages 6 to 13 participated in twelve behavioral therapy sessions. Social skills were tested with the child asking the robot named Kelly, questions such as,  “HI Kelly, how are you?'" Diehl explained. "Then Kelly would say, 'Fine. What did you do today?” When Kelly the robot was not being used the therapist would ask similar questions. Both the scientists and the parents of these autistic children concluded that the children had a better session on developing their social skills with the robot rather than the session with the therapist.  Although, these results from this experiment were small, and because of this, researchers are not sure how this study will apply to the real world and how it will be used in therapist’s offices.  With the modern technology that our world is learning to adapt to, scientists hope that with this new advanced technology we can help some of these children tackle their social skills.
            The information proven from this research, affects humanity because it is a new step in which both families of autistic children, therapists, and scientists can partake in actively when it comes to an autistic child’s social skills. Even though robots are not currently being used in therapists offices, this is a valuable piece of research on autistic children, because it open the doors for many autistic patients both children and adults, so they can find new ways to improve on their social skills. It was mentioned later on in the article that more research had been conducted on an ipad and other pieces of technology, and scientists have concluded similar results to Kelly the robot. Having social skills is something that everyone in the world should share; autistic or not, and if something as simple as a piece of technology will allow for that to happen, further research on this topic will be conducted. Although I have no one in my family who has autism, I can relate to the many people who have an autistic child. I find that if something as simple as a piece of technology can improve on one’s social skills, than it is our responsibility to provide people with autism this piece of technology so they can have a better quality of life.
            This article went into great depth on this study, and has provided hope for many people that one day robots could be used in actual therapy sessions. One thing that I disliked about this article is that the writer only mentioned one other use of technology that has conducted similar research. I feel that perhaps the writer could have compared the two results from the different studies rather than just focusing on the new research that had been found from Kelly the Robot.  Overall this article was well written, and definitely gave me hope as a reader that one day in the future robots will be used in an actual therapy session. 

Norton, Amy. "Kelly the Robot Helps Kids Tackle Autism – WebMD." WebMD - Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 May 2013. <>.


  1. I found this article very interesting. I choose to comment on this blog because the title “Kelly the Robot Helps Kids Tackle Autism” was very interesting. I thought Caitlin did a really good job explaining the article. I also thought Caitlin did a good job connecting this article to todays science. I learned that the children taking part in this study did a better job interacting with a robot then a therapist. I also learned that scientists are trying to use other types of technology to interact with children with autism. I think Caitlin did a really good job explaining this article. I know it was tough to describe this article because the writer only wrote about one other use of technology.

  2. One aspect of this review that was done well is the summary of the article. The title of the article sounded really interesting and her summary explained the reason for the title very well. Another aspect that Caitlin did well was including the fact that the results from the tests were not completely supportive of one conclusion, which was good to include because it tells the reader that there will be more tests to prove that the robot really helps with the social skills of autistic children and adults. A third aspect done well in this review is explaining the significance of the results. One thing that surprised me is that people with autism have an easier time talking to robots and technology than to a therapist. It is really interesting because technology is advancing very fast, so very soon some kind of software could be created for people with autism that doctors could suggest, and then people could improve their social skills from home. Another thing that surprised me is that the social skills of the people in the study improved over the course of 12 sessions. I have a cousin with autism who has social problems and it is interesting to think that he might improve so quickly talking to a robot for a few months or weeks. I also wonder how improving social skills with a robot translates to talking to actual people since they very different. One thing that I think Caitlin could have done differently in this review is talk a little bit more about the procedure. I am not sure what the article said, but I was wondering how often they went to sessions and how they tested to see if the people with autism had improved.

  3. Caitlin did a great job in summarizing her article. She was able to convey the importance of the event in a simple manor. She said that the robot would help autistic children to develop social skills, something everyone should possess. Also, Caitlin’s critique of the article was pretty powerful. She said that the author did not use some information that they had available to them. She believed doing so would have added to her reading experience. Finally, Caitlin did a great job of relating the topic to her life. She said that she feels sympathy for many families with autistic children in her daily life. She understands that autism is a disorder that makes life of families difficult at times. This made it obvious why the article was important to Caitlin, and the rest of the world.
    I found it really interesting that many children experienced increased social skills when using a robot verses using a therapist. Also, I found it interesting that there were apps for such learning mechanisms. It was cool to know that there are many ways that robotics are helping disabled children around the world.
    If I had to tell Caitlin to change something about her summary, it would be to explain how these test results could be extended to conclude whether or not robots are affective. However, this would be going above and beyond. Overall, Caitlin’s summary was well written.