Although autism affects people in different ways, many children with the disorder don't like looking directly at people's faces, because they find expressions unpredictable and disquieting. This makes it hard for them to learn to read emotions in others.
The Transporters, developed by a team at the U.K.'s Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, entices autistic children to look at expressions by superimposing actor's faces onto the fronts of animated toy boats, cable cars, and other kid-friendly vehicles.
Kids with autism tend to like mechanical objects with predictable movements. (Although, considering that autism is about four times more common in boys, let's not overlook a built-in love affair with cars and trucks. Have you watched Pixar's Cars with a little boy lately?).
According to the Autism Society of America , the disorder typically develops before a child is 3 years old. Early diagnosis and intervention are key to effectively improving an autistic child's communication skills. People with autism can lead productive, full lives, particularly if they receive treatment at a young age. This is why The Transporters is targeted at kids between the years of 4 and 8. In preliminary tests, kids who watched the video for 15 minutes every weekday for four weeks caught up with their non-autistic peers in recognizing emotions.
The DVD is now available for purchase, and Changing Media is donating 25% of the proceeds to autism advocacy and research, and another 25% to developing new autism intervention tools. You can also view an entire episode of The Transporters online.