Meet Nao, a robot providing a revolutionary treatment for autistic children. Manufactured by Aldebaran Robotics in France, the small robot is capable of autonomic movement, face and voice recognition and is equipped with extensive programming to support and facilitate social interaction.
A pervasive developmental disorder, autism refers to a group of ailments that cause delays in the development of basic skills. Most children afflicted with autism have difficulty relating to other people and understanding social cues, such as facial expressions and body language.
Common symptoms of the disorder include loss of skill sets such as talking, slowed language development, odd movements such as hand flapping and toe walking, repetitive behavior, anxiety, a high pain threshold, difficulty relating to others and a lack of eye contact and response to vocal commands.
The Nao robot provides predictable and repetitive behaviors, which in turn improves a child’s social interaction skills with people.
Cedric Vaudel, manager of Aldebaran Robotics, says the Nao robot can understand its environment, pick itself up, negotiate its way around objects and is capable of advanced functionality. “Everything is possible, it’s just a matter of imagination.”
Check out Nao’s moves!
Learn more about the warning signs of autism.
Medical Marijuana for Autism
Mieko says her 10-year-old son, Joey, was diagnosed with autism when he was 16 months old. By age 5, Joey's behavior was destructive and aggressive, and despite trying 13 different medications, Joey's condition was going from bad to worse.
"Because of his autism, Joey was very particular about the foods he would eat and was literally starving to death in front of our eyes," recalls Dr. Rebecca Hedrick, Joey's psychiatrist at UC Irvine.
Desperate for a solution to save her son, Meiko turned to medical marijuana, a controversial remedy not often associated with children. Under a doctor's care, she began treating Joey with medical marijuana.
Marijuana as Treatment
The chemical in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can stimulate appetite. The use of medical marijuana as a treatment option for children is considered controversial due to the inherent nature of the drug and minimal research available.
However, the results of Joey's treatment are promising. Not only has Joey doubled his weight, he is responsive and socially engaged. "Joey has had an awakening," his mother reports. "That is truly what has happened to my son. I lost him at 16 months. When he was saying ‘Mom,' I feel like I have my son back."
"After starting to use the medical marijuana, he interacts with us," Dr. Hedrick adds. "We don't have any medications right now that treat autism. We have two FDA-approved medications that treat the irritability side effect of autism, but nothing that treats this disinterest in personal relationships."
Dr. Stephen Hinshaw from the University of California at Berkeley calls in and he, The Doctors and Dr. Hedrick all agree that Joey's progress is encouraging and that medical marijuana as a treatment for children with autism warrants further research.
Learn more about the unconventional treatment for autism.