A smiling robot that captures the attention of autistic children can help them learn and practice social, emotional, and cognitive skills. QTrobot for Home, a talking playmate initially designed for use in schools and researchers, can now help parents work with special needs children at home. The robot could give much-needed assistance to parents who struggle with home-educating their child during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some autistic children become overwhelmed by human contact, leading to anxiety that disrupts their ability to communicate with their parents. For such children, QTrobot provides an engaging, human-like presence without increasing sensory stimulation. It’s predictable, soft-spoken, friendly, and very interesting. When parents also focus their attention on the robot, it becomes a mediator, acting as a third point in a communication triangle with their child.

With the help of QTrobot, parents can guide their child through play-based learning activities. Using evidence-based techniques, the robot’s array of programs build language, communication, cognition, and social interaction skills. As the child learns, the programs become more complex and challenging.

Parents can design individual learning plans through an online portal. This portal features a dashboard equipped with analytics, evaluation tools, tutorials, and educational resources. Parents can also attend monthly meetings that offer peer support and goal setting.

Engineered at the University of Luxembourg, QTrobot has performed well in clinical trials. In one study, children exhibited greater attention span and focus with fewer disruptive behaviors when interacting with the robot compared to a human therapist. Another study showed that QTrobot helped reduce emotional difficulty and improve appropriate emotional response in social situations.

University spinoff company LuxAI brought the therapeutic version to market in 2016. That the robot has helped autistic children in educational and research settings across 14 countries should give added confidence to parents considering bringing QTrobot into their home.