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Thomas The Tank Engine™ Helps Children With Autism

Survey Reveals Thomas The Tank Engine™ Helps Australian Children With Autism Get On The Right Track

Last year, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) announced a strategic partnership with the popular children’s brand Thomas & Friends™, through its licensor HIT Entertainment and Australian agent, Haven Licensing, to help increase awareness about autism.

To mark this partnership, an online Australian-based market research survey was devised after a UK study commissioned by The National Autistic Society (NAS), the UK’s leading charity for people affected by autism and HIT Entertainment, demonstrated that many children with autism have a particular love for Thomas the Tank Engine.

Aspect hosted the online voluntary survey for the past year in order to explore whether the Australian results would mirror that of the UK findings. Aspect reported that it had an extremely high response with 340 parents/carers completing the questionnaire.

The astonishing study results have now been revealed, and show that 96% of respondents said that their child likes Thomas & Friends more than any other children’s characters. For 72% of those respondents, Thomas was the first children’s character that the child associated with. The survey showed that children with autism responded well because of the characters’ simple, clear facial expressions (73%); the well-defined, recognisable characters (84%); calm, clear narration (73%); and the recognisable colours (76%).

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Furthermore, 81% of respondents said the characters in Thomas & Friends helped their child with autism understand feelings and emotions of others. They were particularly enthusiastic about the things that children can learn from Thomas & Friends, such as learning of emotions/facial expressions (70%), and language/speech (66%). This is extremely beneficial as children with autism can use Thomas & Friends to help them learn to understand the feelings of family members and friends. This is an important step so they can better interact socially and engage with people around them.

Survey responses also indicated that the familiar characters provided a calming effect for the child (83% of respondents agreed); a feeling of safety and security for the child (82%); and a way for parents and children to communicate (80%).

Aspect’s Director - Young Children & Families, Anthony Warren, said “The importance of a vehicle that enables children with autism to learn about other people and emotions in a fun way cannot be underestimated. The fact that so many children engage with these characters highlights the way in which a fun program can be used to teach important concepts that benefit children, parents, and the relationships between them”.

HIT, Haven Licensing, and Thomas & Friends have developed bumper stickers to generate donations to support Aspect and their important work in the community, as well as producing “Through My Eyes” - a song that Aspect recorded with the support of Thomas & Friends. The song is performed by 2008 Australian Idol Finalist Thanh Bui, and is now available on iTunes with proceeds of sales going to Aspect.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to work together to support Aspect and its endeavours. We are thrilled at the Australian survey findings about the important role Thomas & Friends plays in the early learning and development of children with autism,” said Mr Tom Punch, Managing Director of Haven Licensing, Licensing Agent for Thomas & Friends in Australia.

The release of the survey results coincides with Autism Month in Australia. Other events during Autism Month include Autism Hour www.autismhour.com.au, and the launch of Drawtism.

Thomas & Friends fans are invited to go to the Aspect website www.autismspectrum.org.au to play an interactive

“Emotions Game”, which helps children to identify emotions ranging from happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared. For more Thomas fun, please visit www.thomasandfriends.com/au


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