Robot ZORA in rehabilitation and special education for children with severe physical disabilities: a pilot study

Renee J. F. van den Heuvel*, Monique A. S. Lexis, Luc P. de Witte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The aim of this study was to explore the potential of ZORA robot-based interventions in rehabilitation and special education for children with severe physical disabilities. A two-centre explorative pilot study was carried out over a 2.5-month period involving children with severe physical disabilities with a developmental age ranging from 2 to 8 years. Children participated in six sessions with the ZORA robot in individual or in group sessions. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to collect data on aspects of feasibility, usability, barriers and facilitators for the child as well as for the therapist and to obtain an indication of the effects on playfulness and the achievement of goals. In total, 17 children and seven professionals participated in the study. The results of this study show a positive contribution of ZORA in achieving therapy and educational goals. Moreover, sessions with ZORA were indicated as playful. Three main domains were indicated to be the most promising for the application of ZORA: movement skills, communication skills and cognitive skills. Furthermore, ZORA can contribute towards eliciting motivation, concentration, taking initiative and improving attention span of the children. On the basis of the results of the study, it can be concluded that ZORA has potential in therapy and education for children with severe physical disabilities. More research is needed to gain insight into how ZORA can be applied best in rehabilitation and special education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-359
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Rehabilitation Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • disabled children
  • play and playthings
  • rehabilitation
  • robotics
  • special education

Cite this