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Children With Autism and Thomas the Tank Engine
For years, parents, educators and therapists have witnessed anecdotal evidence of a special connection between Thomas the Tank Engine and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While typical children are drawn to bold, cheerful little engines, children with autism show an unusually strong liking for these characters. Thus, therapists learned to incorporate Thomas and his cohorts into their arsenal of therapeutic tools. In 2002 and 2007, the UK’s National Autism Society (NAS) conducted research to determine whether there really was a special connection between children with autism and Thomas and Friends, and if so, why. The results of these studies provide a surprisingly long list of reasons for special friendships, but not everyone buys it. Is there really a special connection between autistic children and Thomas?
A 2000 New York Post article titled “Autistic Children Connect with Thomas” made the observations of parents, therapists and teachers public. In 2002, a very limited study by the UK’s National Academy of Sciences showed that Thomas did indeed have a special relationship with children on the autism spectrum, and offered why. 81 parents of autistic children aged 10 years or younger were interviewed, and the summary results showed that 57% of the children were interested in Thomas before any other child’s personality, and their interest in Thomas was two years longer than that of their neurotypical siblings. years, and 33% of children with autism had a “compulsive” relationship with the Thomas character. Research has determined that the unique relationship between children with autism and Thomas and Friends is due to:
1. Calm, clear storytelling
2. Clear and exaggerated “signposts” herald change
3. An easy-to-understand, predictable storyline
4. Still Backgrounds and Landscapes
5. Bold colors, easily recognizable characters
6. Exaggerated, easy-to-read facial expressions
7. Model Accuracy
8. Predictable roles played by various roles
9. Collectible nature of items
A 2007 study by the same group expanded to include 748 parents of a child with autism age 10 or younger, with strikingly similar results.
Children with autism often suffer from sensory processing impairment, which makes it difficult and overwhelming to process information they receive from the world around them. The main theme of the list of reasons why these kids are drawn to Thomas the Train revolves around the simplicity of the characters and the story. Simple, uncluttered landscapes, still facial expressions, calm narratives, bold primary colors, and predictable storylines all help limit the sensory impact of toys, books, and videos. For many people, these explanations are reasonable and acceptable. Others, however, disagree on the validity of these studies and why Thomas is drawn to children with autism.
Skepticism and Alternative Explanations
While the UK’s National Academy of Sciences readily admits that their 2002 and 2007 findings are scientifically invalid, some insist they lack any validity. One blogger cited the extremely similar statistics between the two studies as unlikely and therefore unreliable. Another criticism expressed was the apparently mutually beneficial relationship between UK NAS and Hit Entertainment, which owns the Thomas label. Others, however, argue that similar results between studies are a natural consequence of the social sciences and actually serve to strengthen the validity of the results. As for the corroboration of NAS and Hit Entertainment in the UK; arguably, this is just one example of organizations with common interests coming together for the good of the communities they serve. In 2009, Hit Entertainment and Autism Speaks forged a relationship for similar reasons.
As for why children with autism like Thomas the Train, some people think it is very simple. Children with autism like to arrange toys, and ordinary trains are very suitable for this kind of activity. Another thought is that young boys, autistic or not, love toys that they can smash, ram, and fall over; trains might derail and topple over bridges. However, many parents report that their children with autism prefer Thomas brand trains in particular to all trains, and that their children don’t crash into trains, only queue them.
Some critics insisted that the facial expressions and emotions of all the child characters were too simplistic, making Thomas’ character’s expression no more autistic than the other characters. However, proponents of the theory point out that the characters’ expressions are fixed, rather than being seen as they change, which is unique to the Thomas series. A character is seen smiling, and the camera cuts away from the character, who frowns when he reappears. Viewers don’t see the transition from smiling to frowning. This simplifies the mood outside of other children’s shows. Since children with autism have difficulty reading facial expressions and identifying the emotions they reflect, this additional simplification makes it easier for them to understand Thomas’ storyline. One parent made this observation about Thomas and friends and how it differs from other children’s shows: “Most children’s shows today are not simple in themselves. They are unnecessarily complicated and often loud and bright And annoying. The Thomas show is so simple. The low-tech way it was filmed soothed my son. With simple music, sets, non-animated faces, and a single narrator, you can’t even compare “Thomas” to any other show today What a difference a well-thought-out corporate show can make.”
When listening to parents and therapists of children with autism, it’s hard to deny that Thomas has a different way of connecting and engaging these children than other children’s characters.
How Thomas Helps Children with ASD
The NAS findings are strongly supported by observations and testimonies from parents, therapists, and educators about Thomas the Tank Engine of children with autism. Many parents see Thomas’ character as letting their ASD child talk, helping them understand emotions and teaching them colors and numbers. Explaining how Thomas helped their autistic daughter, one parent said: “Our 22-year-old daughter is a high functioning autistic and she still loves Thomas the Tank and friends. They think like her , to think in a concrete and clear way.
Thomas has been found to motivate children with ASD to continue working in therapy and school. For this reason, Thomas toys and videos are often used as rewards by parents, therapists and teachers who work with children with autism. One parent explained: “We found the Thomas character to be very helpful during speech therapy. While the therapist’s shape sorter and therapy toys were well-intentioned, our son didn’t speak or get along well with her. When When she watched him babble about 40 kids’ names at age 2.5, she started using my homemade flash cards and trains to improve his language and communication skills. Another parent commented, “From age 3 to 6 At age 3, Thomas was our son’s only toy. All holidays, birthdays, rewards, rewards center around Thomas.
true blue friend
It’s no wonder that the lovable Thomas and Friends characters are popular with children of all types. However, the strength of the connection that children on the autism spectrum have with characters appears to be unique in many ways. Researchers, parents, and therapists have come up with many ideas as to why these children were so drawn to Thomas’ character, but perhaps “why” doesn’t matter. Importantly, these children are the most difficult to reach, connect and teach, and they are responding to Thomas. This makes him a true blue friend to them and all who work with them. Many agree that Thomas is indeed a “very useful” engine for children with autism.
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#Children #Autism #Thomas #Tank #Engine