Helsana avatar Nao to help autistic children

On 19 March 2018, the Fondation Planètes Enfants Malades switched on robot Nao at the Cantonal Autism Centre in Lausanne, marking the first time a Helsana avatar has been used in French-speaking Switzerland. Working with autistic children will also be a first for the robot.

19.03.2018

Our commitment will make a valuable contribution to improving the lives of hospitalised and sick children as well as promoting their social inclusion. Which is why Helsana offered its Nao avatar to the Fondation Planètes Enfants Malades. The mission of this foundation is to enhance the daily lives and well-being of sick children and teenagers at Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV). Alert at all times to the needs of patients and the medical community, the Fondation Planètes Enfants Malades is today turning its attention to the latest technological trends.

The foundation was therefore happy to entrust Nao to professor Nadia Chabane, director of the Cantonal Autism Centre of CHUV in Lausanne, so that the robot could assist children with autism. «This feat was made possible thanks to the valuable support of Helsana, who graciously offered Nao to the Fondation Planètes Enfants Malades,» declared Anne Argi, chair of the foundation board of Planètes Enfants Malades, at the robot's presentation ceremony. «Nao is a new tool that will further complement our efforts to meet the daily education, socialisation and entertainment needs of autistic children,» added professor Chabane.

Autism a first for Nao in Switzerland

The use of the robot represents a first in French-speaking Switzerland. It's also the first time this type of avatar has been directly incorporated into the treatment strategy for autism in the country. That's not to say that robots will replace therapists, mentors and education specialists, however. «Based on results at other specialist autism centres, notably in France and the United States, robots are a valuable digital tool for dealing with certain symptoms of autism,» says professor Chabane. «Interaction with a robot may be easier thanks to the absence of complex social cues such as facial expressions, which can sometimes act as barriers to communication with autistic children.» The Nao avatar will therefore enable protocols to be put in place that are designed to improve joint attention, imitation and comprehension among very young children with autism-related difficulties. «We are delighted to be able to adopt Nao at the Cantonal Autism Centre and look forward to discovering his full range of potential applications within the scope of our activities.» Helsana would like to thank professor Chabane, her team and the Cantonal Autism Centre for the enthusiasm already shown towards Nao.

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