Robot Therapy Could Help Kids With Disabilities

Posted On April 12, 2013 by Angela Go
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ATLANTA – Children with cerebral palsy face many challenges, especially as they develop motor skills and muscle control needed to interact with their environments.

Robots might just be the answer to help these children with their disability.
“Children with cerebral palsy don’t have very much control over their movements,” Chen said. “Even though they see and understand, they can’t easily repeat modeled movements. So, we decided to use a robot as a playmate and at the same time ask the robot to become an evaluation tool.”Georgia State University’s Yu-Ping Chen, assistant professor of physical therapy, with Ayanna Howard, a professor of robotics at Georgia Institute of Technology, are exploring how specially designed robots made for children can help improve their motor skills and muscle control.

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for brain lesions resulting from injury or illness, whether they occurred before or after birth. The severity of the lesions varies from individual to individual, as well as the impact of the diagnosis on their lives.

Many people living with cerebral palsy have been helped by assistive robots, called “contact robots,” but these robots are designed for adults, not children.

robottherapyChen and Howard want to design a robot that is scaled down for children and resembles a toy so a child will fully interact with it.

The researchers will also design the robot to record data, placing video cameras in the robot’s eyes to record the range and speed of the child’s movements in order to evaluate the child’s therapy.

With the ability to tailor therapy through programming the robot and the means to collect data, therapists will be able to create personalized therapy for children with cerebral palsy.

The research is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Chen has previously worked on a project with children living with cerebral palsy, examining the effects of music therapy under a grant funded by the Grammy Foundation.

For more about physical therapy at Georgia State, visit