Technology February 14, 2020
Nimaya Robotics brings game changing therapy for kids with autism & multiple disabilities
Social impact startup Nimaya Robotics has launched a game changing innovation for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and multiple disabilities in India. Around the world, developmental disorders are on the rise and technology-based solutions like those developed by Nimaya Robotics offer children with such conditions an opportunity to reach their full potential and lead productive lives.
In India, Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities affect about 72 million children. Many of them are unable to perform basic life functions and are dependent on caregivers for life. Take children with autism for instance. Many of them lack psychomotor skills that can hamper their ability to perform simple day to day tasks.
There is no known cure and treatment involves occupational, speech and behavioural therapy which help these children learn motor, fine motor, and communication skills. Technology-based solutions can help accelerate their progress. While there are many tech-based solutions in speech and communication, this is not the case with psychomotor skills. A gap that Dr Ramya S Moorthy, Subashree Krishnan, and S A Srinivasa Moorthy, founders of Nimaya Robotics, are keen to address.
What makes Nimaya Robotics game changing
Nimaya’s solution is to redefine the field of therapy through the groundbreaking application of robotics. This is an outcome of five years of research during which Dr Moorthy studied the challenges of occupational therapists and children. The outcome is the Nimaya Robotics Training System (NRTS), an end-to-end solution and methodology to augment existing occupational therapy programs.
How it works
The NRTS consists of Skill Training Units (STU) and Trainer Interface Unit (TIU). The company has developed six STUs, which together address 30 psychomotor and cognitive skills. Each STU is designed to address a group of skills. Like the Joystick STU, which helps develop hand-eye coordination, concept of direction, responding to verbal instructions, to name just a few. The combination of play and learning – Active Learning – helps children quickly develop the grasp, hand-eye coordination and concept of direction.
The TIU works behind the scene – capturing data, uploading to the cloud and student progress reporting. This means the occupational therapist can focus on the child.
There are a lot of robotics instruments available with single goals of play or speech. Nimaya is perhaps the first in approaching this in a holistic way across multiple areas. NIEPMD has identified that Nimaya’s products can not only be used for autism but also for other disabilities like cerebral palsy, with multiple disabilities and other intellectual disabilities. – Dr Himanshu Das, Director, National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities
Outcomes of pilots
Pilots were conducted with 60 children across five centers in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu using Nimaya’s approach. The results shows an over 50% improvement in learning outcomes. Not only did the children retain the skill but were also able to generalise to daily life. Having learned to hold the joystick with the correct palmar grasp, they can now grasp balls, doorknobs and bottles properly.
“We have observed how students started learning turn taking, had improved attention span apart from acquiring motor skills”, said Swathi Vellal Raghunandan, Founder Director, Ishanya India Foundation, among the participants in the pilot. “The sessions were fun because it was more like a game. And gaming breaks the monotony of learning and there is immediate reinforcement. We are very positive that the robotic skill training units developed by Nimaya will certainly lead to different skills acquisition”.
“I am sure that these robotic devices are going to work very well because for children with autism to have eye contact, to do things and learn is difficult”, Rekha Supriya, a special educator, counsellor and parent of a child with autism. “When they use robotics they don’t have the anxiety of looking at an adult and processing information to learn things. So this really helps”.
To make Nimaya’s products accessible and affordable, the founders have created a subscription-based model:
- Special Educators / Centers signup for Nimaya’s robotics based training program.
- Nimaya experts will provide training on how to use the STUs during therapy sessions, with complete software.
- Therapists augment training with the STUs. Children learn skills faster, retain longer and generalise to real life situations.
- Nimaya’s systems will record data, analyse them and provide progress reports to centres and parents.
Nimaya is also among the first incubates of eiLabs, the social incubator of EnAble India. Speaking at the launch in Chennai, Dipesh Sutariya, Co-founder, EnAble India said social robotics offers a way forward to address some of the issues in teaching children with autism and developmental disabilities. “Teaching social skills requires a great deal of repetition and this may fatigue teachers and create confusion and stress. Social robotics has proven to be a great way to address this concern”.
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