Can the IROMEC robot support play in children with severe physical disabilities? A pilot study

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the application of the IROMEC (Interactive social RObotic Mediators as Companions) robot to support play for children with severe physical disabilities in rehabilitation and special education. Within a 2-month pilot study, physically disabled children with a developmental age between 2 and 8 years participated in sessions with the robot. A combination of qualitative and quantitative outcome measures was used to collect data on aspects of feasibility, usability, barriers for the child as well as the therapist and an indication of the effects on playfulness and the achievement of therapeutic and educational goals. A total of 11 children participated in this study (four boys, seven girls). Individually Prioritized Problem Assessment scores indicated a positive effect of the IROMEC robot on the achievement of goals for the children. Professionals did observe meaningful application possibilities, but the lacking adaptability, expandability and technical stability of the robot platform make application in daily care practice impossible. The application of a robot like IROMEC for children with severe physical disabilities seems to be positive and worthwhile, but usability and feasibility aspects are crucial for success.

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