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Cartoons Superimposed With People's Faces Help Autistic Children Learn Emotions

Scientists at Autism Research Center at Cambridge University have designed a program involving cartoons to help autistic children identify emotions better. //

Alex Murphy, mother of an autistic child, said, "I've noticed that when we read stories, if a character's sad, he'll perk up and explain the reason. For the parent of a child who's not very interested in emotions or can't recognize them very well, it's nice to see them beginning to understand that side of life."

Autistic children find it very disturbing to look at other people’s faces and hence are unable to learn to understand and express emotions.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge University, said, "We've got to somehow find a way to get autistic children to overcome their fear of looking at people's faces so that they can start learning about how expressions arise. This is a way to ease them into reading faces."

People's faces were superimposed on trains and cars in a series of five-minute episodes of a cartoon called The Transporters. The expressions of the people in the cartoon are explained to autistic children enabling them to learn about emotions.

A 52 percent improvement has been observed in those who watch the videos for four weeks.

Baron-Cohen said, "They had caught up to the same level as a typically developing child on tests of emotional recognition. They are preliminary but very exciting results - even with a very short intervention, children with autism can look at faces and start picking up the relevant information."

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