Using Lego Robots to Estimate Cognitive Ability in Children Who Have Severe Physical Disabilities

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  • Abstract Purpose: To determine whether low cost robots provide a means by which children with severe disabilities can demonstrate understanding of cognitive concepts. Method: Ten children, ages 4 to 10, diagnosed with cerebral palsy and related motor conditions, participated. Participants, had widely variable motor, cognitive and receptive language skills, but all were non-speaking. A Lego Invention “roverbot” was used to carry out a range of functional tasks from single switch replay of pre-stored movements to total control of the movement in two dimensions. The level of sophistication achieved on hierarchically arranged play tasks was used to estimate cognitive skills. Results: The 10 children performed at one of six hierarchically arranged levels from “no interaction” through “simple cause and effect” to “development and execution of a plan”. Teacher interviews revealed that children were interested in the robot, enjoyed interacting with it and demonstrated changes in behavior, and social and language skills following interaction. Conclusions: Children with severe physical disabilities can control a Lego robot to perform un-structured play tasks. In some cases, they were able to display more sophisticated cognitive skills through manipulating the robot than in traditional standardized tests. Success with the robot could be a proxy measure for children who have cognitive abilities but cannot demonstrate them in standard testing.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International
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    • Cook, A.M., Adams, K.D., Volden, J., Harbottle, N., & Harbottle, C. (2011). Using Lego Robots to Estimate Cognitive Ability in Children Who Have Severe Physical Disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. 6(4), 338–346.