Robotics Program Makes Art Accessible to Israeli Youth With Disabilities

A child with complex disabilities paints an original work of art using a spherical robot controlled by an iPad at ALEH’s special education school in Gedera.

In July, the Gedera-based special education school of ALEH, Israel’s network of care for children with severe complex disabilities, transformed its robotics class into an innovative art program that makes painting accessible to its students with severe complex disabilities, those for whom hand-eye coordination skills are exceedingly difficult to acquire and the manipulation of a paintbrush is an insurmountable tasks.

After spending several months teaching the students how to control spherical robots with iPads, ALEH’s special educators helped the students take the next developmental and creative leap to using the robots as brushes on a canvas. After dipping the spheres in washable paint and placing them on the canvas, the students were encouraged to use the iPad to control the spheres, creating lines, shapes and beautiful designs with every continuous finger stroke on the touch screen.

“ALEH has been using art as an educational tool and developmental accelerator for decades. By providing our residents with severe complex disabilities with a creative outlet, and showing them that they can be in control of a process from start to finish, we are able to promote unprecedented growth, satisfying their needs for recognition, a sense of accomplishment and feelings of independence, all core elements of the human experience,” explained Naama Sudkewitz, the director of ALEH’s residential and special education center in Gedera.

“We decided to fuse technology with art in order to take our art empowerment philosophy to the next level, making the creative process uniquely accessible to children with complex disabilities, while at the same time enhancing a host of other skills as well.”

ALEH’s new robotics-powered art program can be used in many different educational and rehabilitative settings to help children with varied abilities expand their motor, social, communication and learning skills. Over the coming months, the ALEH staff and students will present the program to specialists in the fields of education and rehabilitative treatment to promote its use in special education workshops around the country.