Using Assistive Robots to Promote Inclusive Education

  • Encarnação, Pedro (PI)
  • Cook, Albert M. (Researcher)
  • Londral Gamboa, Ana Rita Mendes (Researcher)
  • Sá Caiado, A. (Researcher)
  • Adams, Kim D. (Researcher)
  • Nunes, Clarisse (Researcher)
  • Talone Nunes da Ponte, Maria Margarida (Researcher)
  • Santos Leite, Teresa (Researcher)

Project Details


The Portuguese basic law on education establishes that children with special education needs should be, to the maximum possible extent, included in regular schools. However, students and teachers face everyday many difficulties to take this principle to practice. One difficulty is the adaptation of the teaching methods to make academic activities accessible to students with manipulative and communicative disabilities. In fact, the learning experience is enhanced by a combination of seeing, speaking, and doing. Thus, providing assistive technologies that aid communication and manipulation can allow children with special needs to fully participate in the educational curriculum.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices have been used to allow children with expressive language limitations to communicate with others in many settings including education. Robotic systems (RS), physical and virtual, have been used as tools for manipulation of educational materials. But often, with currently available RS, children are unable to communicate using their AAC system while they also are controlling the RS and vice-versa. This prevents simultaneous manipulation of items and communication about them, as typically developing children routinely do. In this project, an integrated augmentative manipulation and communication assistive technology (IAMCAT) system for academic activities was developed. Both a physical and a virtual augmentative manipulation system were devised, allowing children to manipulate physical or virtual educational materials on a computer screen and simultaneously communicate about their experiences. Specific elementary school curricular units in different areas (e.g., mathematics, literacy, social studies) were adapted to take advantage of the developed IAMCATs and the systems were trialed with children with disabilities integrated in regular classes.

Results of the data collected show that teachers considered the IAMCAT a useful resource that can be integrated into the regular class dynamics respecting their curricular planning. It had a positive impact on children with disabilities level of participation, communication, and manipulation of educational items.
Effective start/end date1/06/1330/09/15

Collaborative partners

  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa (lead)
  • Polytechnic Institute of Lisbon
  • Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa
  • University of Alberta
  • Centro de Reabilitação da Paralisia Cerebral Calouste Gulbenkian


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