Matlda offers hope to children who are family violence survivors

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Matlda offers hope to children who are family violence survivors

March 2, 2022

A two-year collaboration between Emerge and La Trobe University has shown that a specially designed robot called Matlda can help to improve the behaviour of young children who have been affected by family violence.

Over 28 children were involved in the art therapy project: those taking part included children in the organisation’s Make Your Mark program and others who were referred to the research program.

Matlda is a social robot who engages in dialogue, read and recite text, dance and play music with children. She is programmed to tune into individual children, motivating them to better engage with others and help to modify their behaviour.

The research was set up to ask questions, some centred on the Child Posttraumatic Stress disorder scale, about whether using Matlda in combination with therapy could help increase their confidence and learning, encourage participation and create a sense of fun.

The results have shown that children are curious and interested in emerging technology, and that Matlda does support the children to engage more. However, psychological and independent improvement is less obvious.

“The answer was yes, and the next step is to encourage our therapists to use Matlda more,” Julia said.

Answers to surveys showed that mentally the children did not appear too badly impacted by the trauma caused by the family violence such as upsetting thoughts or images, nightmares or feeling scared, angry or guil

“Socially, too, the answers were positive with most of children not trying to avoid activities, people, or places that remind them of what had happened. They remained highly interested or wanting to do things they used to do,” she said.

Funding is now being sought for the second phase of the project which will focus on children in refuge.

Over one million Australian children are exposed to family violence each year, affecting mental and physical health, social relationships and learning.


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