Embargo: 6am Monday 22 September 2008
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 22 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 families.
“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. Ever”
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/
The Transporters series has been evaluated by the UK Autism Research Centre 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.
Online clips from The Transporters here (files approx 5MB) – Username: changingmedia, Password: jdrori
Same clips at DVD quality here (files over 100MB) – 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 www.thetransporters.com
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.
Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen
Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is Director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge. He is also Director of CLASS (Cambridge Lifespan Asperger Syndrome Service), a clinic for adults with suspected AS Simon has numerous publications in scientific journals, and his books include Mindblindness, Autism and AS: The Facts, Teaching Children with Autism to Mindread and The Essential Difference. The Transporters series is based upon his original idea. He and his colleagues at ARC also developed the DVD Mind Reading: An Interactive Guide to Emotions.
In addition to being a director of Changing Media Development Ltd, Jonathan is Visiting Industrial Professor with the Graduate School of Education at Bristol University, UK, specializing in the uses of technology in education. Previously he was Director of Culture Online, a programme at the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) designed to take culture and the arts to new audiences using a range of new technologies, and has also been Head of Commissioning/Editorial Director for BBC Online and Head of Digital Media and Learning Channels at BBC Education. His television and new media work have been recognized by BAFTA and the Royal Television Society.