Dallasnews.com: Milo the robot helps Dallas students with autism learn new social and emotional skills

The newest instructor at Tom C. Gooch Elementary is unlike any others there. 

Milo, who started at the northwest Dallas school a month ago, looks like his fellow co-workers and some of his students in many ways. He sports a spiky brown hairstyle, smiles when he’s happy, frowns when he’s sad, and asks students about their interests. 

But he’s also less than 2 feet tall, possesses blue arms and legs, and has a small screen in the middle of his chest. That’s because Milo, a doll-like robot, was designed to help young students with autism learn new vocabulary, calming techniques and other coping skills. 

“He’s a very non-threatening way for kids to learn better social and emotional skills,” said Soraya Gollop, community liaison for Gooch Elementary. “A key way to allow our students with autism to be within the general population and be part of the classroom, which is best for their academic achievement, is to teach them those coping skills. That’s when Milo comes in.”

But Milo doesn’t work alone. 

An instructor sits next to him during a student’s lesson and controls the robot with an iPad. The student also has an iPad used to respond to Milo’s questions and watch videos with examples of one-sided conversations, facial expressions and other skills. 

“Normally, I have my note-taking pad when I’m doing a lesson,” special education teacher Karol Henderson said. “If they get an answer incorrect, I’m writing down notes. It’s letting me prepare a lesson one-on-one with them or with a group of students. So when they come back to Milo the next time, they will eventually start mastering it.” 

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