Milo

Milo, a robot, will help students with autism spectrum disorder at J.C. Lynch Elementary School practice their communication and social skills.

COWARD, S.C. – Representatives from the South Carolina Department of Education delivered a new robot to J.C. Lynch Elementary School in Coward on Thursday.

The robot, Milo, walks, talks and models human facial expressions. It is designed to be interesting and approachable for learners with autism spectrum disorder.

Lisa Raiford, autism education associate at the South Carolina Department of Education, said Florence County School District Three is the second district in the Pee Dee to add a robot program. Florence One Schools also has one.

“This is actually the 22nd robot that we’ve put in schools,” Raiford said. “Because of the outcomes we’ve had so far, the number of other districts in South Carolina have moved forward and purchased the program on their own as well. This is the third year of the program that we’ll be entering in, so we’re very excited to bring Florence Three in on this program.”

Raiford said Milo has provided a new tool for teachers. According to robots4autism.com, Milo consistently delivers lessons in way that learners with autism spectrum disorder respond to. The program helps learners improve their social and behavioral skills and gain the confidence they need to succeed academically and socially, the website said.

“We emphasize that this is not something where you sit a child down in front of a robot,” Raiford said. “But you make sure there is a teacher or therapist there working with the program. And he (Milo) has become a very efficient tool in helping our students with autism to improve in those outcomes in terms of their social/emotional learning, their speech pragmatics and their behavior.”

Meta Turner, a special education teacher at J.C. Lynch Elementary School, said she believes Milo will really help with the social and emotional learning for her students because that is a very challenging area for children who have autism.

Turner said her son. who is 18, has social and emotional problems and she wishes Milo had been available when he was the age of her students.

“I believe it really would have helped him be able to interact with other people and be able to get a better feel for his emotions and better explain things that upset him,” Turner said.

When she was trained how to use Milo, Turner said, she saw a lot that the robot could do including make facial expressions. She said most people with autism have problems with the reading of a person’s emotions. But with Milo, they will be able to see what certain facial expressions, such as happy, sad and frustrated, might look like.

Cheryl Hubbard-George, Florence County School District Three’s director of exceptional children, said it brings tears to her eyes to know that children in the district are getting what so many other students have and deserve.

“I work really hard for Lake City. I try to make everything equitable for these kids,” Hubbard-George said. “So it’s an amazing feeling to know that the students at J.C. Lynch, and possibly another classroom, are going to have something to help them become better citizens. It’s amazing.”

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