DALLAS - When Scott Linder describes raising his son Jackson, who has autism, 'challenging' is an understatement.
“Yesterday, he said 'I don’t want to go to school,'” Linder said. “So we drove to the bank where we can see the school and we sat there for 10 minutes and then we tried again.”
But the struggle was just beginning.
“He threw himself down on the concrete. Then we sat there and waited for 20 minutes for him to get over being so upset,” Linder said. “After that, he ended up having a great day yesterday.”
Nothing is more difficult for Jackson than dealing with strangers.
“We’ll go into Target or the grocery story and he’ll walk in with his hands above his face, saying, "I’m shy. I’m shy,” Linder said.
But a breakthrough for Jackson, and kids like him, may be coming from an unlikely place: A robot named Milo.
“Sometimes it's very hard for an individual with autism to work with a human,” Dr. Carolyn Garver said. “We put demands on individuals that they can`t live up to, and I think Milo doesn’t do that.”
Texas is at the center of this Robot Revolution. Milo was built by Dallas-based RoboKind. Dr. Garver is putting him to the test at the Autism Treatment Center, where she is the director.
“I’ve been working on this project for probably four, four and a half years now,” she says.
Although Jackson struggles to socialize with people, he has a natural knack for technology.
“I have a parental control app on my iPhone, but he can hack into that,” says Linder.
Milo is helping to bridge the gap between interacting with technology and with humans.
“Emotions are very difficult for children with Autism. We are trying to help them identify them and also what they are,” says Garver.
Milo may be a robot, but he’s a real friend when it counts.
“Working with the robot increases his pride in himself because he's learning more and succeeding,” says Linder. “So when he`s going out in these social interactions he's ready to try some of the lessons he's learned.”