Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Is my son connecting with a new autism inspired character on Kids TV?

Did you see the Chris Packham programme 'Asperger's and Me' last night? I'm planning to catch up.  I'll be honest, once we've got our three children, two of whom have autism, into bed and started having dinner it's usually easily past 9pm.  I've read some inspiring reports about it this morning.   Truth is at the moment I feel spoilt for choice when it comes to watching autism inspired TV.

Like many parents of autistic children, I throw myself into learning about the condition.  Everything is 'autism this' and 'autism that' according to my other half.  Having missed the start of the UK BBC2 documentary last night, I headed to Netflix and watched the next episode of Atypical. In a few weeks I'll also start devouring the next series of 'The A Word'.

But I'm not the only one working my way through autism inspired programmes at the moment. I've noticed that one of my autistic sons, the pre-verbal one, David, has started watching Pablo on his iPad. And he is engrossed in it.

Pablo isa new show on UK Kids TV channel, CBeebies. It is the first animated TV series to star an autistic character and the first TV programme with an all-autistic core cast.  It's reminiscent of Woolly & Tig where a little girl uses her cuddly 'Woolly' spider to help her through her fears and worries.   The character Pablo, is a five year old boy on the autistic spectrum who enters an animated world, drawing imaginary animal friends which come to life to help him when he needs to handle situations which make him feel anxious.

The first episode is called the 'Purple Bird' and covers a situation I'm familiar with. Did you ever hear about a baby crying when their Grandparent arrived with a new beard and someone says 'It's because you look different'? Most babies learn as they develop that Granddad is still Granddad with or without a beard.  But for an autistic person the slightest change can be terrifying way beyond their childhood.

Last night while watching the slightly autism anal mum on Atypical I had my hair down.  I can't have my hair in anything other than a ponytail during the day because David gets upset.  I'm not me, I'm not right with my hair down.  Just like his sister, Jane, is not right with only one shoe on and the car is not right when it's parked in the wrong place - both of these incidents have caused meltdowns in David.  His older brother, Anthony, who is also autistic but higher functioning if you will, hasn't had a meltdowns in years but is also nevertheless very much affected change.

Back on the programme, it turns out Pablo is confused by his mother dressing differently.  In this first episode Pablo is headed to a wedding.  His Mum enters the room and talks to Pablo but he is so confused by her purple clothes and fancy feather hat and concludes that she is a big purple bird.  So Pablo enters his animated world to seek help from his animal friends to seek comfort and ultimately answers.

His friends are delightful highlights of his character - the flappy bird, an echolalic llama and a nervous dinosaur are easily spotted. I recognised the familiar moaning of his unfamiliar, scratchy clothes.  Pablo and his animated friends help him discover the truth - the big purple bird is really his mum and he has no reason to be afraid.

David found Pablo on the iPad all by himself.  Usually he watches the same programmes over and over.  This brings him comfort and repetition is very important in his learning. He has just started forming some sounds through listening and repeating what he hears on the iPad. David has watched his first epsiode of Pablo and many others.  He skips to different parts in different episodes.  He loves the theme tune and its music.

Does he connect to it more than other programmes? Does he understand something better?  Do the subtle autistic characters and voices feel more familiar to him?

As David is a pre-verbal six year old, it's very difficult for me to tell.

Ultimately I suppose, Pablo is about education. And while helping David learn, Pablo, is hopefully educating many more and creating an early understanding about what life may be like for some children.  Children who may be in your kids class, or in the playground, or just like in Pablo's first appearance, at a wedding.

And while I'm gorging on Atypical, The A Word and absorbing all Chris Packham has to say later on today, I suppose the reality is that I'm hoping people who don't have autistic kids may be doing some of it to.  So they don't feel the need to judge us in a restaurant, or fear us in the playground. If Pablo can do the same for young children when they are at their most receptive and, in many ways, most accepting then Pablo may not be the only one who can connect with my autistic sons.


  1. We've recently moved away from CBeebies to CBBC but it's wonderful to hear that they've introduced something like Pablo so children from a young age can have a little more understanding. That can only be a good thing can't it #SmallStepsAA

  2. Interesting... I happened to catch Sasha at the time this was starting and switched it on as background in the hope she'd be interested. She seemed to like the theme tune, but once the programme itself started she quickly lost interest. I wasn't really sure why - maybe too much going on, or the pitch of the voice, who knows?! Thanks for reminding me I need to go find Atypical though, and I'm excited about the A Word coming back! x

  3. I love that this new show has been introduced. Kids, I've found, are so much more accepting of things and I just hope that it's the parents and other adults who are able to take note and learn from programmes like these. My son is currently under a pediatrician but isn't yet diagnosed so I also find it super interesting to learn all I can in the hope of supporting him #brilliantblogposts

  4. We no longer watch CBeebies but I think it's fantastic there is an autistic character fronting one of the shows. It must be hard to know what your son thinks about this being non verbal but I think it's great that they are trying to educate viewers on what life might be like as a child with autism. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub with this xoxo

  5. The Chris Packham documentary was amazing. I loved so much of what he said and found it inspiring! I haven't seen Pablo because my two are beyond cbeebies now. But I also haven't seen Atypical so I'm off to find it. I will be watching the A word again. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  6. I did watch the Chris Packham Documentary and it was incredible to learn about someone we have seen on our screen for so long and how he has battled through life to appear 'normal'. I think it's great that over the last few years so many subjects that once were never understood or taboo are now being discussed. I think it's great that cbeebies are trying to educate young children about differences, I've not seen it but I hope it's done well x

  7. I must admit I do try to avoid anything with autism in it. We watched a Bruce Willis film once that had a boy in it with autism and it upset me. We didn't know it had that in the story line and I probably wasn't in the right head space. I do think I would like to watch this though. We actually don't really watch that much children't TV anymore. It is 'right' to have on GMTV on in the morning ;0) I think I will dig this out for us all to watch. It's amazing that your son found it himself.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements

  8. I have to admit that I haven't watched The A Word or the Chris Packham documentary yet, it's not that I don't want to, I have to attempt an unwind and relax in the evening. It is good that shows are introducing characters with ASD, I hope this brings about more acceptance for all our children. #SmallStepsAA

  9. I think Pablo is great! I love that different autistic strands are separated between the different animated characters. It avoids presenting a single "this is autism" vision, making the programme much more inclusive. The involvement of autistic people in the production really shows.

  10. It's great to hear that CBBies is doing this programme and brilliant that David likes it too. I've been meaning to watch aytypical but simply haven't had the time and besides I've become a bit of a game of thrones junkie! (probably should have kept that to myself!). I did however watch the Chris Packman documentary which was incredibly insightful. If you haven't already watched "A life, Animated" (2016)then you might find it an interesting watch... it follows the real life journey of a young autistic man who has been a life long disney fan. best wishes #spectrumsunday

    1. Yes, Lynne, LIFE ANIMATED - it's been a year since it came to the screen.

      Owen has now made his own story or something else.

      And his brother Walt is doing #siblingsspeak or #siblingstories which you might well have seen on Twitter.

  11. I was really pleased to learn that Cbeebies had made this program. I was watching Pablo to write about on my blog and my 11 year old autistic son came in. He had never seen it before, watched for a couple of minutes and then said "is he autistic mum?" I think its great that he managed to realise the character was like him!

    1. That's lovely. Our eldest (Anthony) is also on the spectrum - he's nine. I point out autistic actors or characters whenever I see them. We were watching the Thor movies today and it's got Anthony Hopkins at Oden, the king of Asgard. He was diagnosed with Aspergers so I told our Anthony that and he thought it was cool :-)

  12. I keep forgetting to watch Pablo! I'm setting the recorder now... Hope you've seen the Chris Packham one by now - it was brilliant! Thanks for linking up with #TheMMLinky x

  13. I think it's great they've introduced Pablo to the CBeebies channel. My sons a little too young to understand the programme, but I think it's a great way to introduce children to autism and that not everyone thinks in the same ways. Hopefully it will change children's perceptions of others. Thanks for joining us at #TriumphantTales this week!

  14. Each situation has some impact on a child with autism. The program should provide only positive impressions and the useful information.


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