Telepresence Robot: Saving Students With Serious Illness or Injury From Isolation

Meet Telepresence Robot, the innovative solution that made a difference in the life of a Bardon kid who was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and was forced to miss school because of his illness.

Due to serious illnesses or injuries, thousands of Australian children are forced to miss school. Whilst some may need to miss a few days or weeks of school until they get fully recovered, some treatments could drag on for months or even years, resulting in them feeling left behind and isolated from their school community.

Eight-year-old Odinn Meehan has been in that situation. After a recent bout with COVID-19, he was diagnosed with Juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM), a type of autoimmune disease in children that causes skin rash and muscle inflammation. Due to his rare illness, Odinn was forced to be absent from class often just so that he could continue with his treatment and avoid getting reinfected with Covid.

His parents describe him as a very social kid which is why being away from his schoolmates has understandably affected his emotional well-being. And whilst Rainworth State School was very supportive and provided him with study sheets during those days when he needed to be absent, it was not the same as being physically present in class.

Thankfully, they learned about MissingSchool’s game-changing project Telepresence Robot Service which allows students to remotely attend class and be able to interact with their teachers and classmates, much like teleconferencing.

The innovative solution, however, takes it to another level as it gave Odinn the ability to navigate through the physical space of his school and participate in the activities as if being there physically.

The telepresence robots live in regular classrooms, and they are remotely operated in real-time by the student from their remote location through their device.

“Maintaining connection keeps students with illness up-to-date socially and academically, helps to normalise a critical period in their life, and gives them a chance to be ‘just kids’ rather than patients.” – MissingSchool

Today, Odinn is no longer isolated and lonely. Through MissingSchool’s telepresence robot service, he was able to have access to education again and reestablish his social connection. There are more than 60,000 kids like him who are also suffering from a serious illness or injury and miss school from months to years.

An Australian-first, the telepresence robot service began as a pilot program that was launched in Canberra, ACT through a $600,000 grant from St George Foundation. They have been trialled in various locations and education settings in Europe and North America.

In Australia, MissingSchool has been rolling out telepresence robots in schools, hospital schools, and education systems since 2017. The program now operates in every Australian state and territory.

More information about MissingSchool and Telepresence Robot Service can be found here.

Published 3-April-2023