Robotics program bridges divide for autistic students

Robots are now helping bridge the gap between autistic students and their schoolmates. They're also helping expose hidden potential that might otherwise be overlooked because of a disability.

Gabi Stansberry's world can be quiet and closed off. Autism makes it hard for the teen to have normal relationships with people, but her world is now opening up.
 
A program called Unified Robotics created at King's Schools in Shoreline teams autistic students with others to build robots and relationships.
 
"It's really amazing to have that kind of bond with Gabi," said student and fellow robot lover Madeleine Schwitters.
 
Madeleine happens to be Gabi's cousin, but it took working together on robot projects to break down barriers and bring them closer.
 
"At first, I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to upset her or mess anything up," said Madeleine. "But when you find people to build with, create with and use your imagination it really builds strong bonds between people."
 
Noelle Foster's daughter Delaney founded the organization when she was in school at King's two years. She did so because there were no other robotics programs that served students with disabilities. Delaney didn't think that was fair to her sister Kendall who also has autism.
 
Since then, Unified Robotics has spread to 13 schools in Washington with chapters in three other states, as well.
 
Noelle said the program gives special needs students a chance to unlock talents that might have been completely overlooked because of their disabilities. One of those students has now gone on to study computer programming in college. 
 
"Many of these students discovered they have great potential. They're amazing, creative problem solvers. They understand the programming process. It opened up so many more doors for them."
 
Gabi's father, Mike, said robots are creating a much more human world for his daughter.
 
"It may not be that she ever builds a robot again but it's learning to build that relationship. It's great to see her get excited about this and seeing success," he said.
 
You can learn more about Unified Robotics, including how to open a chapter at your school by clicking here.

Copyright 2017 KING


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