Catherine So

Catherine So

Professor Catherine So of the Department of Educational Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, has devoted much time and effort to improving the social ability of autistic children and has pioneered the novel approach of robot-based intervention in Hong Kong.
Having noted that autistic children tend to fall into communication problems partially due to developmental delay in gestures, Professor So and her team began a robot-based gesture intervention programme (titled「妙手可言」in Chinese, literally meaning “miracle hands can speak”) in 2015. The programme used social robots to mimic human actions in training autistic children to understand and master gestures, thereby enhancing the children’s communication skills.
The team soon proceeded to explore other applications of social robots. The applied research project “Robot Drama Therapy for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder” was launched in 2016. The project adopted robot drama therapy to help autistic children enhance social and learning skills. In 2018, the team introduced the “Robot for Autism Behavioral Intervention®” (RABI®) programme that uses dramas played by social robots to reproduce daily life scenarios to help autistic children learn social and communication skills. Science and Technology for Autism Remediation (STAR) Limited was established in 2019. In the form of a social enterprise, it extends its services to the community to benefit more autistic children and their families. While continuing with the promotion of RABI®, it also provides pediatric massage and autism assessment services. A new programme “Online and Home-based Robot for Autism Behavioral Intervention” has been launched in 2020, allowing autistic children to continue their learning at home despite the suspension of school classes during the COVID-19 epidemic.
“Helping these children to a certain extent also helps their parents. Parents taking care of their children at home are under tremendous pressure. When the children learn social skills and apply these skills to their daily lives, it will greatly reduce the pressure on the parents.” Professor So talked about the programme introduced during the epidemic.
The succession and development of the projects manifested a successful story of social innovation. It has started with identifying problems, conducting research, ideating innovative solutions and implementation, and has reached eventually the stages of bearing fruits and extended application, all underpinned by the attributes of social innovators Professor So and her team, which include being insightful, innovative, passionate and empathetic.



Scope of Services

education and training


youth and children

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