Bring up Google and enter the search terms, “Thomas the Tank Engine an Autism” you will get over 68,000 results. Granted I haven’t looked through all of them…but from my own personal experiences I can tell you that there is something there.
This is Tucker on the last day of having Thomas and friends on his wall (he decided he was too old for Thomas – so instead wanted a gigantic Viking helmet).
Tucker and Thomas – they were always quite the pair. It was about the only thing that would get him to calm down enough to take a nap. If I needed a mom break, I knew I could always count on Thomas. Tucker wasn’t enthused about Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, Arthur, or Dragon Tales – but Thomas? That was a different story.
So, what was it about Thomas?
- I think that the facial expressions were ‘easy’ to navigate and there never was much confusion about how a train was feeling.
- The ‘filming’ of Thomas was consistent, it didn’t move around a lot. If you watch Thomas you will find that the background doesn’t move. The only thing moving is the train – so the movement is easy to follow. I also think this is why Tucker LOVED Scooby Doo, but not the new Scooby – the Scooby from the 1980’s that I grew up on. Slow, one camera, methodical…
- He loved to line things up – and still does. His room is rarely messy. He would lay his head on the floor to make sure all trains were in an exact line.
“In June and July 2001, The National Autistic Society conducted a survey of 81 parents of children with autism and Asperger syndrome to investigate their putative ‘special relationship’ with Thomas the Tank Engine. The survey confirmed our assumption from anecdotal evidence that children with autism spectrum disorders associate far more strongly with Thomas the Tank Engine than with other children’s characters. (http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/our-publications/reports/our-policy-and-research-reports/children-with-autism-and-thomas-the-tank-engine.aspx).”
The results were fascinating and helped to put words into what I had always known. See the report here: http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/our-publications/reports/our-policy-and-research-reports/children-with-autism-and-thomas-the-tank-engine.aspx
Two months ago we were at my mom and dad’s house and there was ‘nothing’ on the television (as reported by my children). I went outside to get a movie and when I returned I found Tucker watching Thomas. I stood in the doorway and watched. He was sitting (at age 12) on the edge of the chair watching with the same intensity he had watched for so many years. It was like he was transported to his four-year old self – laughing at Percy being cheeky, scolding Gordon for being grouchy, and smiling from ear to ear when Thomas saved the day.
On more than one occasion Thomas saved my day…so I’ll ever be thankful to the Island of Sodor.
For more information about the link between Thomas and Autism see the following writings:
- NSW: Thomas the Tank Engine turns teacher for autistic kids. (n.d). AAP Australian National News Wire,
- MacRaer, F. (2007, July 25). HOW THOMAS GIVES THE AUTISTIC AN EXTRA PULL. Daily Mail. p. 3.
- (2002). Thomas takes autistic children down new learning tracks; CHILDRENS’ TV: Classic character’s friendly face and simplistic approach helps children’s early development. Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales).
- Thomas & Friends characters ranked top toy by parents of children with autism:survey. (n.d). Canadian Press, The,