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Can a Cartoon Aid Children with Autism?

Groundbreaking DVD Helps Children Recognize Emotions

New York, NY (PRWEB) January 13, 2009 -- Sally is an animated cable car with a real human face - and she has proven amazingly effective in helping children with autism improve their recognition and understanding of emotions.

Sally is one of eight lovable cartoon characters starring in THE TRANSPORTERS, a groundbreaking DVD launching today at It is the brainchild of Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading world authority on autism and produced in association with his research team at the Autism Research Center at Cambridge University, United Kingdom.

The DVD could represent a major educational breakthrough for children on the autism spectrum, including Asperger's Syndrome.

The idea behind THE TRANSPORTERS is to help children to learn about emotions in a way that they enjoy. THE TRANSPORTERS features characters like toy trains and cable cars because children with autism tend to like mechanical objects that have highly predictable movement, while they shy away from people's faces, which they find unsettling and unpredictable. By grafting real actors' faces onto vehicles, the DVD attracts children with autism to look more at human faces and makes it fun and enjoyable to recognize and understand emotions. The DVD took almost three years of research and production effort to create and it has involved children with autism at every stage.

A new study to be published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from Cambridge University has found that after watching the DVD for just 15 minutes a day for four weeks, most children with autism caught up with other children in their ability to recognize emotions.

Parents who have used the DVD have reported noticeable improvements and stronger emotional bonds with their children. Professionals have noted children commenting on other people's feelings, often for the first time. (Verifiable testimonials from parents, as well as education and health professionals, are available upon request.)

"Imagine you're the parent of a child with autism and your child doesn't look up at your face, doesn't respond when you call their name, doesn't interact in the normal way," said Baron-Cohen. "It can be really heartbreaking. THE TRANSPORTERS addresses this challenge by helping children with autism look at faces and recognize feelings. We've found a way to reach children with autism by bringing the social world to them rather than expecting them to come to us."

The DVD arrives at a time when autism is being increasingly recognized as a national public health issue. Autism spectrum conditions are diagnosed in at least one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism, whose cause remains unknown, has increased tenfold in the last decade.

"THE TRANSPORTERS DVD is a wonderfully innovative way to help children with autism. Combining animated mechanical vehicles with real human faces is a format that is captivating and fun", said Alison Tepper Singer, Executive Vice President, Autism Speaks, USA.

The content-packed DVD consists of 15 five-minute animated stories (75 minutes), 30 interactive quizzes (70 minutes), and a 36-page booklet to help parents, teachers, and caregivers get the most out of the DVD at home and at school. The storyline involves a toy set in a child's bedroom that comes to life when its owner goes to school. Each episode focuses on a different emotion, beginning with the simplest (happy, sad, angry), and moving on to the more complex (proud, disgusted, jealous). THE TRANSPORTERS is aimed at children between 2 and 8 years old.

THE TRANSPORTERS is available online for US$57.50 at 25 percent of profits from sales go to autism research organizations and charities, including Autism Speaks.

The DVD was developed with support from the United Kingdom government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport and is distributed by Changing Media Development Ltd. The DVD has been very successful in Australia and in the UK, where the government has backed distribution.

About The Autism Research Center at Cambridge University:
The Autism Research Center at Cambridge University is internationally recognized for its pioneering approaches to understanding the causes of autism spectrum conditions and developing novel, scientifically evaluated methods for detecting and helping people with these conditions.

About Changing Media Development Limited:
Changing Media Development Ltd creates and distributes products to help children with autism and other conditions affecting cognitive development. The company translates the latest research into important and captivating experiences, using both traditional media and new technologies.


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