[ASC-media] Trains, trams and cable cars show their emotions to children with autism

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Mon Sep 22 03:47:45 CEST 2008

Dear all,

Here is a copy of a story we've issued today - some terrific science
here on helping children with autism recognise emotions. 

We have DigiBETA footage and DVD quality VNR available on request, and
there are video clips available online (high and low resolution). 

We also have an Australian expert and a Melbourne mother of an autistic
child available for interview.

Contact me on 03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977 for interviews / more

Kind regards,


Trains, trams and cable cars show their emotions to children with autism

A revolutionary animated DVD is teaching children with autism aged two
to eight years to recognise emotions.

Produced by leading scientists and film makers, the DVD features real
human faces on animated toy vehicles. The DVD will be launched in
Australia on Monday 21 September. 

Preview DVDs, broadcast quality footage from the DVD, interview material
with autism expert and family, and stills are available.

"Children with autism and Asperger Syndrome love order and
predictability. So they shy away from people. To them, we're confusing
and unpredictable," says Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the
Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge.

"They like trains, trams and other mechanical objects that behave in
simple predictable ways, but not faces and emotions which are less
predictable," he says. 

"Our research suggested that if we graft real faces and emotions on to
toy trains, trams, cable cars and chain-ferries- things that they
love-then we could encourage children to pay attention to, and identify,
human emotions." 

"Programs such as this which are highly motivating for young children
with autism are very useful for teaching them about things that they are
usually not very interested in, like faces and emotions," says Cheryl
Dissanayake, Director of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La
Trobe University in Melbourne. "Unlike typically developing children,
children with autism do not naturally seek out such information. This is
hugely problematic for their social skills. Innovative techniques like
the Transporter DVDs will help them to begin processing information that
is central for their social cognitive development".

Working with UK actor Stephen Fry, the researchers and media experts
have created a remarkable series of 15 short animated stories that are
transporting autistic children into a world where they can explore
simple emotions such as happy, sad, angry and afraid, as well as more
complex ones like sorry, tired, joking and unfriendly. 

A new study from Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre looked at
the impact of watching the animations. It shows that after using the DVD
for 15 minutes a day over four weeks, most children with autism caught
up with other children in their ability to recognise emotions.

The DVD has been available in the UK and has been distributed to 40,000

"After only watching three or so episodes he knew the names of every
character," says the father of a boy with autism. "He then said to me,
'Look, Daddy's happy.' This was the first time he'd ever said this.

The resource pack was developed with support from the UK government's
Culture Online programme and is being distributed by Changing Media
Development Ltd.

"Twenty-five percent of profits from sales will go to autism charities
and research organisations.  At least a further 25% will be used by
Changing Media Development to research and create other scientifically
validated ways to help children with autism spectrum conditions. Ten
percent of profits from sales in Australia will go to an autism charity
in Australia."

 The DVD pack, together with information about the underlying research,
is available at http://www.thetransporters.com/


Evaluation study 

The Transporters series has been evaluated by the UK Autism Research
Centre <http://www.autismresearchcentre.com>  for its effectiveness for
children aged five to eight with ASC (autistic spectrum condition).

In all tasks on which the children were tested, most caught up their
typically developing peers.

The results suggest that The Transporters DVD is an effective way to
teach emotion recognition to children with ASC and that the learning
generalises to new faces and new situations.

Children with ASC who did not watch the DVD remained below typically
developing levels.

For further information and interviews contact Niall Byrne,
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au, 03 9398 1416, 0417 131 977. Media
background information, images and links at www.scienceinpublic.com
<http://www.scienceinpublic.com/> .


Online clips from The Transporters at: 

Username: changingmedia 
Password: jdrori 

DigiBETA program footage and DVD quality VNR available on request.

Further video clips including online episodes and Professor Simon
Baron-Cohen at 


Notes to Editors:

1.      The DVD pack comprises 15 five-minute episodes, each featuring a
different emotion, 30 fun video quizzes and a 36-page booklet for
parents and carers


Kind regards,




Niall Byrne

Science in Public

ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au <mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au> 

Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com


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