Students with cerebral palsy deserve full inclusion in classroom, robots can help: U of A researchers

29 October 2010

Research has proven that assistive technologies such as robotics in the classroom help children with disabilities learn and participate. Strategies for using robots can be adapted by teachers to fit individual student needs in a manner consistent with the Alberta Curriculum.

In a document sent to Alberta Education and the Government of Alberta entitled Rehab Dialogue, University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine researchers Al Cook and Kim Adams say assistive technologies exist-they just need to be made widely available in the classroom.

Chelsea Hagan, 14, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around and a communication device to talk to her friends and family. To learn math and measurement, she uses a Lego robot to pick up non-standard units like straws or toothpicks, lines them up and then counts them. She also used the robot to pick up a ruler and measure the length of objects. The robot is controlled by Chelsea's communication device using infrared technology, much like a TV remote control. The math project was funded by the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Disability Studies.

This is how Chelsea felt about using the robots in these projects:

What did you like best about the robot?
I can do it myself. I like to do that [the activities] all by myself.

What do you like to do with the robots?
I liked to color with it. It helped me to read.

Did you like using the robot to work on math measurement?
Yes, a lot

What else did you think about the robot?
I like the robots. They are fun. I wish I could have one.

Rehab Dialogue is a series of interactive articles published by the U of A Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. We invite government, health-care professionals and the community to engage in a discussion on various health-care topics where rehabilitation could or should play a greater role-improving function, reducing pain and maximizing potential and quality of life.

Visit the Rehab Dialogue blog at:

About the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
As the only free standing faculty of rehabilitation in Canada, the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine balances its activities among learning, discovery and citizenship (including clinical practice). A research leader in musculoskeletal health, spinal cord injuries and common spinal disorders (back pain), the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine aims to improve the quality of life of citizens in our community. The three departments, Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Speech Pathology and Audiology (SPA) offer professional entry programs. The Faculty offers thesis-based MSc and PhD programs in Rehabilitation Science, attracting students from a variety of disciplines including OT, PT, SLP, psychology, physical education, medicine and engineering.