The Transporters (Animation) DVD
Teaching emotion recognition to preschoolers with autism
Ofer Golan, Ayla Humphrey, Gina Gómez de la Cuesta, Claire Harcup, Nick Paske and Jon Drori (Changing Media Development), John Suckling, Amber Ruigrok, and Simon Baron-Cohen
The Transporters DVD, originally commissioned by Culture Online, part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, aims to help children with autism to look at the human face and to learn about emotions. The series of 15 five-minute episodes features the adventures of 8 animated mechanical vehicles with human faces, each focusing on a different human emotion. Stephen Fry is the narrator.
Children with autism tend to avoid looking at human faces and find it hard to understand why facial features move in the way that they do. This inability to read emotions on the human face impairs their ability to communicate with other people. We have found that following a four-week period of watching the DVD for 15 minutes a day, children with high-functioning autism caught up with typically developing children of the same age in their performance on emotion recognition tasks.
Children with autism are often fascinated by rotating wheels, spinning tops, rotating fans, and mechanical, lawful motion. They prefer predictable patterns. For this reason all the toy vehicles featured in the The Transporters run on tracks or on lines. The 15 key emotions portrayed in The Transporters aimed at 2 to 8-year-olds are: happy, sad, angry, afraid, excited, disgusted, surprised, tired, unfriendly, kind, sorry, proud, jealous, joking and ashamed. Each episode has an associated interactive quiz to help the child learn about the featured emotion.
The NAS distributed 40,000 free copies of the DVDs to families in the UK with a child on the autistic spectrum during the first half of 2007. Subsequently the government issued a licence to Changing Media Development Ltd to distribute the DVD online. 25% of profits go to autism charities/autism research.
Copies can be requested via the website at www.thetransporters.com. Translations are in progress into the following languages: German, and Dutch.
A new study is underway evaluating if using The Transporters DVD changes the function and/or structure of the autistic brain.