Over the last few years I have come across various studies / news reports about robots being used to help teach autistic children. Knowing how well both my boys engage with technology, especially when compared to me, I could see why this would be a great idea for some children. In September last year LuxAI, a robotics company based in Luxembourg got in touch to ask if I would trial using one of their robots at home. I was really pleased to get involved and I have been using QT Robot for the last 6 months with my boys.
What does QT Robot do?
Essentially QT takes the role of teacher and interacts with your child as they complete tasks / games on a tablet. You are there as an assistant but the robot is the one making the requests. This works really well for my kids who certainly find requests from me (or people in general) more difficult.
The robot is pre-programmed with a range of units all related to early years development. The Early Stage Development Curriculum has been designed to help teach children with autism and developmental delays. It provides a consistent approach to learning a range of skills and fits nicely into our daily routine so works really well for us.
There are four main skill areas in the Early Stage Development Curriculum that we have been working on with QT:
- Social Skills
- Cognitive skills
- Receptive Language Skills
- Expressive Language Skills
Alongside this we have also been working through the Emotional Skills Curriculum.
Each unit is very short between 5-10 minutes so this is perfect particularly with my 5 year old who has a very short attention span.
The robot comes with two tablets, one for the assistant and one for the learner. The robot will say hello, talk to your child and tell them what to do e.g. ‘match the animals’. The child follows the instruction and is instantly given praise by the robot. If your child doesn’t follow the instruction you select this on your tablet and the robot will ask again. If your child makes a mistake or doesn’t follow the instruction a prompt is given on screen with just the correct answer provided. Or QT asks you the assistant to show / help the child depending on the module.
The robot records all the child’s responses which can be used to analyse the child’s progress.
What are the tasks / games involved?
There are a wide range of units on QT Robot and at a range of skill levels. Below are some examples of units we have been using:
- Imitating one step actions with objects. This is where QT asks the child to copy an action on the tablet like rolling a ball of plasticine. My boys both loved copying banging a drum in this module.
- Identification of shapes, animals, colours. These are units where your child will match items on the tablets, getting praised as they get it right.
- Imitation of animal sounds. My youngest loves this one, QT makes various animal sounds when the animal is shown on the tablet. Your child is encouraged to copy, my youngest finds it hilarious when the robot is roaring like a lion.
- Naming and labelling colours. This is one of the expressive language units.
- Identification of spatial concepts (such as in and on)
- Identifying emotions
- Turn taking games. You and your child take turns to complete a puzzle while QT tells us who’s turn it is.
These are just some examples of units- we have over 100 different units on our current robot. I was really surprised when my 7 year was excitedly copying emotions. He was copying the ‘sad face’ from QT and genuinely enjoying it.
Working with LuxAI
Over the last 6 months the LuxAI team have been brilliant. They helped me through setting up the robot which was really straightforward. They also provided advice on which units to try to support specific skills we were working on with the boys.
LuxAI have taken on board all my feedback. I have seen lots of development and new units added to QT from when we first started in September. It is very clear to me from working with them that LuxAI want to ensure their robots are meeting the needs of the children and parents using them at home. The behavioural therapist working with LuxAI was able to watch videos of me and my boys interacting with QT and provide great advice to me on how I could support the boys better. I was also able to have Zoom sessions with the team to talk through how we are getting on.
Not only did LuxAI provide us with support using QT they also improved QT based on our experiences. At the beginning of the year we were sent a new QT Robot with all the new content loaded. I was very impressed with the quality and quantity they have produced. The robot also comes with a handy manual which lists all of the individual units with space to write notes.
The team is very helpful, friendly and approachable and issues were responded to straight away. I am really pleased to be working with them to support the development of QT.
Our experience with QT
The first day we brought out QT Robot my 7 year old was extremely excited. Now 6 months later he still comes running when he sees QT come out. The robot in itself is a motivator for him to interact and engage which is fantastic. My 5 year old seems to find QT very funny and will often get the giggles with him.
Every evening after school the kids watch some TV then they do 10 minutes each on QT followed by reading their school books before tea. At the weekends we may do a couple of units in the morning. My boys both have communication challenges including attention so short consistent learning works really well for us. The robot allows me to select which child I am using so their data is separated which is really helpful.
I have definitely seen progress with both the boys in attention and language skills. I love that the expressive language units allow for my son to use his PECS to respond. Also I have really noticed with my 7 year old that he is engaging more with me as well as the robot in our sessions. This is a real plus for me, it’s that interactive element that QT provides that you don’t get just using an app based system.
I am a big believer that children need to have fun while they are learning and who wouldn’t have fun with a robot as your teacher. My youngest is often repeating phrases he has learned from the robot, his current favourites being ‘bravo’ and ‘tadaaa’.
Whilst there is the odd day that particularly my youngest is tired and less engaged overall our experience with QT has been very positive. I know my boys have delays and need extra support in their learning. They also need structure, routine and consistency all of which QT provides. As a busy parent I find it hard to have the time to have activities ready that will support them so having QT with all the activities set up and ready to go makes a big difference.
I love watching the excitement from my 7 year old when we are using QT. At the end of each session QT says ‘see you later’ whilst waving and my son excitedly waves back clearly bonded with his robot friend.
QT Robots now available for home use
A QT Robot is a long term investment and something I would recommend for those wanting to provide consistent support to learning over a long period of time. I have had private speech therapists work with the boys at home and often they would only really engage with the first 15- 20 minutes of the hour I was paying for. This is where having QT at home allows you to have a little each day and longer when it suits you / your child.
If you want to find out more about QT Robot then visit the LuxAI website.