Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
The DVD, The Transporters became available in the United States and Canada on January 12, 2009. The Transporters is geared to children with autism between the ages of two and eight. The emphasis is on watching fifteen minutes daily for four weeks.
"A new study to be published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from Cambridge University has found that after watching the DVD for just 15 minutes a day for four weeks, most children with autism caught up with other children in their ability to recognize emotions."
The Transporters consists of fifteen short clips that run from five to six minutes. After each episode is the option for either an easy or hard quiz that contains ten questions. The child or adult will need to use the remote control to respond with the arrows. You are prompted to try again if the response was wrong. When the answer is corret there are words of encouragement. The quiz does not show the face of the character when they are setting up the question, so not to give away the answer. The downside is that there does not seem to be an exit from the quiz, so you will have to finish it to get back to the episodes.
The Transporters has been available for two years in the UK. "The DVD was developed with support from the United Kingdom government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport and is distributed by Changing Media Development Ltd. The DVD has been very successful in Australia and in the UK, where the government has backed distribution."
There are eight characters within The Transporters with real human faces that show emotions. Each episode is based on an emotion.
William - Chain Ferry
Nigel - Coach
Charlie - Tram
Jenny - Tram
Sally - Cable Car
Dan - Cable Car
Oliver - Funicular Railway
Barney - Tractor
Grab - Versatile Multi-Function Tool
Sally and Dan are the kids, Barney is the oldest. My son likes William the best as he has the biggest smile. His least favorite is Jenny. The screen for each episode has four options - play, chapters, easy quiz and hard quiz. The chapters is basically breaking down the six minute short into sequences. We prefer to play the sections in their entirety.
An example of the chapters from Sally's Sad Day:
Sally Get's Splashed
Sally Feels Sad
Sally Finds the Children
Off for a Picnic
When you first view The Transporters you will note the similarities to Thomas the Tank series. The Transporters also has a narrator, Kerry Shale. The music in the background is very familiar and flows nice with the storyline. My son and I both thought it would be nice to see the name of each character on their vehicles. Nick did notice that Charlie has 1 listed on the top of his vehicle and Jenny has number 2 listed. William has a pair of binoculars on top of his head. Another suggestion is to have their lips move when the character is speaking.
The set design for The Transporters is very detailed. The setting is Jamie's room, a boy who starts his day by picking up Charlie and placing him on the tracks of his large table display, which basically comes to life after he closes the bedroom door. You can see a display shelf on the wall and a clock as well. Each episode begins in the same fashion as Jamie goes off to school. There is a little ding and Jenny and William open their eyes. Then the characters are introduced starting with Oliver.
We opted to start watching The Transporters without the benefit of the User's Guide, which consists of an overview of each episode, questions to ask the child, themes and emotions explored. The 34-page guide also includes activity suggestions for teachers and parents that covers five pages. There are three pages that explain how to use the DVD. There are pictures from the DVD in all these pages that help reinforce the emotions and teaching tips.
The easy quiz has two options for the answer while the hard quiz has three options. There is even an option to take the quiz based on emotion or episode or a combination of both. I think this would be best for a group setting, whether it be a classroom, summer camp or social skills group or a therapy situation.
My son Nicholas is high functioning and almost fourteen, plus he is being homeschooled during Middle School years. He likes The Transporters and prefers this series over Thomas the Tank. This from a kid who would not leave the house ten years ago without a Thomas toy in his hand.
My nonverbal son Matthew is twelve and has stopped to look at the Television when The Transporters is being played. He gets a smile on his face while observing the characters and listening to the music. He has several Thomas the Tank movies and is a fan of Noggin television shows.
Nicholas says this is best for mid functioning kids and has given the DVD five stars. He does have some questions when watching The Transporters like do they eat anything, how do they move things around since they are on wheels and have no arms or legs. Also in Episode 10: Oliver the Kind Funicular - he wanted to know why Oliver never expressed being sorry to Jenny for speaking mean to her. In episode 7 Nigel did not say he was sorry to William. In episode 4: Charlie Saves the Day there is a real thunderstorm taking place outside. Charlie overcomes his fear of heights to save Sally.
It was quite obvious to Nick that there was a surprise birthday coming for Barney, so that seemed predictable. He was questioning why Jennie would be embarassed with the stinky fish she was transporting. It seemed she did not want Charlie to think she was smelly. It was obvious to the viewer that the smell was coming from the fish as it was clearly in front of her. He was confused by this episode in how they taught embarassment. I know from past experience that this is a tricky emotion to teach my kid with autism and others on the spectrum as well.
The favorite episodes were number 7: Barney's Special Day and number 8: William's Scrapyard Nightmare. Barney's special day is his surprise birthday. Nick did not like how William was not part of the festivities. He did carry Barney over the estuary. In episode 6: Jennie's Smelly Adventure we both felt that in the beginning Jenny did not do a good job in showing a happy face. Charlie does good expressions. Nicholas also feels that The Transporters is not just for kids with autism but that all kids would benefit and enjoy the DVD.
A window is broken by accident in episode 11: Slow Down Nigel! and they get a new clock in episode 5: An Exciting Day. In episode 8: William's Scrapyard Nightmare Charlie has a favorite rhyme:
"I'm a Big Blue Tram
and my Doors go Slam"
The episodes are as follows:
1. The Transporters' Happy Day - happy, sad, surprised
2. Sally's Sad Day - sad, happy, sorry, surprised
3. Nigel's Slow Day - angry, excited, happy
4. Charlie Saves the Day - afraid, hapy, proud, worried
5. A Very Exciting Day - excited, happy, worried
6. Jennie's Smelly Adventure - disgusted, embarrassed, happy, worried
7. Barney's Special Day - surprised, excited, happy, sad
8. William's Scrapyard Adventure - tired, happy, sad, surprised, worried
9. Charlie's Missed School Run - unfriendly, sad, sorry, surprised
10. Oliver the Kind Funicular - kind, happy, sad, surprised, tired, grumpy
11. Slow Down Nigel! - sorry, angry, excited, kind, proud, sad, surprised
12. The Great Race - proud, sad, surprised, worried
13. Why Can't I Be Someone Else? - jealous, happy, kind, proud, grumpy
14. Playing Around - joking (playing around), angry, excited, happy, sorry
15. Jennie's Difficult Day - ashamed, happy, sad, sorry, surprised, worried
I feel the $57.75 US price is very reasonable considering the teaching tools within The Transporters. Twenty-five percent of the profits goes to autism charities and another 25% on future research. Please visit The Transporters online where you can view episode one, sign up for the newsletter and purchase the DVD. The DVD took almost three years of research.
"It is the brainchild of Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a leading world authority on autism and produced in association with his research team at the Autism Research Center at Cambridge University, United Kingdom. "
There are two versions of the DVD pack. North American and British English
Here is an interview with Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen at Autism Hangout on The Transporters.
I also think the age range needs to be adjusted, two year-olds will not grasp much and those over eight will benefit most from the learning of these emotions. It will be hard to target the same age group that is already enthralled with Thomas the Tank or even Jay, Jay The Jet Plane.
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.