Twickenham pupil with cancer able to attend school using robot

Twickenham pupil with cancer able to attend school using robotf6f11570-3e08-11ef-b29d-61ef83ddf068.jpg

By Jessica UreBBC News

Twickenham pupil with cancer able to attend school using robotgrey-placeholderBBC Howard sitting at a desk in school uniform next to AV Howard, a small white tabletop robot wearing a red and blue striped tieBBC

Howard, who has cancer, has been able to attend lessons from home or hospital by sending ‘AV Howard’ in his place

A south-west London pupil with cancer is being helped to keep up with school lessons by an interactive robot.

Howard’s school attendance had dropped below 50% after he started intensive weekly chemotherapy in January, following his diagnosis of a rare kind of arm cancer in December.

But since then, the 12-year-old, who attends a school in Twickenham, was introduced to an interactive avatar and audio visual robot called ‘AV Howard’ and he has been able to attend lessons from home or hospital by sending his electronic double in his place.

Teachers and students have even undergone “robot training” to help them integrate AV Howard into lessons.

Twickenham pupil with cancer able to attend school using robotgrey-placeholderA pupil puts their hand up next to AV Howard, a small white tabletop robot wearing a red and blue striped tie

Headteacher Martin O’Sullivan said for students “who can’t access education”, “this is going to be the future”

Howard says although living with his tumour is “painful”, “having AV Howard has made a really big impact for someone like me, who cares about their school”.

AV Howard’s camera allows him to read books and worksheets, and he can talk to the class through an in-built speaker.

His fellow students take turns to carry the robot between lessons so he is able to join in with the rest of the class.

“It feels quite good because we’re doing the right thing for a good cause, and to be able to help him is an honour,” student Cambell said.

‘Going to be the future’

“It’s really fun when he’s on, when you’re taking him through the corridor, because everyone is like, ‘Hi AV Howard!’ which is really nice to see,” student and family friend Juliette said.

Headteacher Martin O’Sullivan added: “For a student that’s got that level of medical treatment, the fact that they’re not in school regularly, it’s not only about them falling behind in what they’re learning.

“Not being part of something on a regular basis is not good for their wellbeing, for their mental health.

“For students who can’t access education for whatever variety of reasons, this is going to be the future.”

Twickenham pupil with cancer able to attend school using robotgrey-placeholderImage of AV Howard, a small white tabletop robot wearing a red and blue striped tie

Charity Momentum is hopeful more children can be helped by the robot technology

The robot was sourced from Chartwell Children’s Cancer Trust by the charity Momentum, which offers support to children and their families facing serious illness and has been helping Howard and his family.

Momentum is hopeful more children can be helped by the robot technology.

“We really try to get to know the family to find out what they need,” Emma Searle, a family support manager at Momentum said.

“One of Howard’s needs was accessing his education, which was really important to him, so we were able to put in that referral to Chartwell Children’s Cancer Trust for one of the robots”.

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