"The Transporters" DVD to help autisitc children read facesPop in this new innovative DVD, “The Transporters” and get ready to enter a land of toy trains, cable cars, buses, ferries and other mechanical characters donning human faces, designed to teach children with autism to recognize and name emotions. 

Since children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) tend to like mechanical objects with highly predictable movement rather than faces that are constantly changing, this DVD combines both in a delightful, kid-paced series of episodes featuring eight expressive faced characters from dependable William, the Chain Ferry and Jennie the Tram who can be a bit boastful, to youthful, happy Sally, the Cable Car. Providing a comfortable context to learn a challenging concept, “The Transporters” teaches children with ASD to recognize and name emotions in different situations and on different faces.

When the little boy, Jamie, leaves for school, his toys come alive and transport the viewer to an engaging world of adventure, reactions and problem solving. The fifteen episodes graduate in theme from simpler to more complex emotions to recognize–from happy, sad and angry to proud, jealous, joking and ashamed–with quizzes following the stories to check understanding.

As I viewed the episodes, I was impressed with the care that the researchers and developers took to select words and situations that named and reinforced emotions through clear, short sentences, exercising flexibility of language. Sally’s “happy” was linked with enjoy, love, laugh, friends, favorite thing to do, get there on time, good working order, helping friends, thank, and great friends. Varied phrases described the episode that capture the resulting emotion, teaching children language in many contexts. Nigel however was “angry” linked to stop shouting, didn’t say thank you, take more time, stuck behind, and forced to go slowly. Using the vocabulary associated with situations linked to an emotion and matching it with a closeup of the facial expression is an effective teaching tool for children with ASD. Emotions are taught within social situations, with resulting reactions explained and named by the narrator. 

Backed by research, “The Transporters” has been found to be effective in teaching emotions to children with autism who viewed the DVD for just 15 minutes a day over a month period. They were able to identify and generalize what they learned. A parent whose child with autism viewed the episodes said, “My 4 year-old son, on the spectrum loved these videos from the first time he saw them. He has recognized and pointed out my facial expressions for the first time and more readily recognizes expressions in books.” An added value is that his 6 year-old typically developing brother loved them too!

Developed in the UK, “The Transporters” uses some vocabulary such as “funicular railway” for elevated train and “tram” for train which is less familiar to those of us on the other side of the Atlantic, but doesn’t detract from the learning accomplished through these episodes.

25% of the profits go to further research and autism charities. This is a win-win deal. Help your child cue into social situations by accurately reading faces and contribute to further research to help us help kids.

Appropriate for 4-8 year olds