The DVD, which has a series of 15, five-minute episodes and contains quizzes for viewers to review facial expressions from each episode, costs $57.50 with a portion of the proceeds going to autism research groups and charities including Autism Speaks. The DVDs are available starting January 12, 2009 at The Transporters.com.
There are quite a number of autism-related products aimed at families who are, of course, desperately interested in finding ways to help their kids make gains in communication skills, among other things. You won't find many product references or endorsements on Autism Bulletin because I don't want to recommend you spend precious dollars on anything.
The Transporters is interesting because when it first came out, about a year ago, it was a project supported by the British government, working with the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge's medical school. The UK government supported the development of this video series and made it available to thousands of families at no cost.
I've asked the public relations company for The Transporters if they know of any plans to distribute this DVD to public libraries or other places where parents who can't afford the price may borrow the video.
The other reason this project is interesting is because the champion of The Transporters is well-known autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen. In developing this project, researchers are leaning on the popularity of cars and trains among young autistic children (does your little one like Thomas the Tank Engine?) while embedding within the front of vehicles people's real faces and expressions. The episodes cover emotions like happy and sad, excited and angry, as well as more nuanced feelings like sorry, proud, surprised, unfriendly, tired, grumpy and worried. The researchers assume that there will be repetition involved in playing the short videos, to reinforce the impressions and messages.
In a press release accompanying the release of the U.S. version of the DVD, Baron-Cohen states:
"Imagine you're the parent of a child with autism and your child doesn't look up at your face, doesn't respond when you call their name, doesn't interact in the normal way. It can be really heartbreaking. The Transporters addresses this challenge by helping children with autism look at faces and recognize feelings. We've found a way to reach children with autism by bringing the social world to them rather than expecting them to come to us."
There are examples of the British version of The Transporters available on YouTube. You can see an example of The Transporters in this YouTube video clip, about five minutes long:
Also see this four-minute video with researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, and a clip showing a child answering questions from the quiz on the video.
Also see from Autism Bulletin archives:
Videos from British Autism Researchers Teach Children to Recognize Emotions