Boy With Health Issues Uses Robot to Attend School

For 11-year-old Max Castillo going to school can be hazardous to his health.

“Max has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and is being evaluated for Mast cell activation syndrome,” his mothe Alya Castillos aid.

His genetic disorders and allergies make attending his Evergreen Park middle-school nearly impossible.

"My joints would dislocate and I would have respiratory symptoms," he said. "I would be sick all the time."

But administrators found a high-tech solution to bring him into the classroom. Virtual access through a teleconferencing robot.

“So, it’s a screen on wheels and he’s able to control it from home," Veda Newman, director of student support services at Central Middle School, said.

Each day Newman sets up at a work station in the safety of his living room. A camera, microphone and headset allow him to participate in classroom activities.

"It works pretty well," he told NBC 5. "I’m able to communicate with my teachers pretty well."

Elizabeth Rapp, a 6th-grade teacher at Central Middle School, said Max engages in class "every single day."

"In his own way he raises his hand he turns and talks," she said.

Classmate Ilaan Wheeler is intrigued by the robotic presentation of Max in class.

"For the first time in my life I’ve seen an actual person on a robot moving," Wheeler said. "And that’s pretty surprising."

“The Beam,” as Max's robot is known, is four-feet tall.

"I just call it the robot," he said.

It weighs about 40 pounds and can roll from classroom to classroom.

“I had to mess with the speed because sometimes I’d go way too fast," he said.

Max can control it with just a few clicks.

The district funded the $5,000 robot, an investment that has helped one little boy not only learn--but make friends.

“I mean that’s invaluable," Alya said. "Because that’s a social experience he would never be able to have otherwise."

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