IMAGE Screengrabbed from Amazing Things Happen/Youtube
As a parent, you want your child to be able to understand and interact with people from all walks of life, who may be described as “odd” or “different.” But how do you talk to your child about a classmate or neighbor who has a developmental condition like autism?
For older kids, however, introduce them to autism via video entitled Amazing Things Happen (above), a multi-award-winning short animation that’s intended to be watched by children ages 7 to 11. Created by a dad, Alex Amelines, who happens to be an independent animation director, the video makes use of imaginative animation, simple words, and kid-relatable situations to describe autism. Advisor for the video is Tony Attwood, renowned psychologist and expert in children and adults with Aspergers Syndrome and autism.
Alex said finding a “lack of engaging visual material about autism” while visiting his child’s school made him want to pursue the project, which would eventually take him two years to finish. He also believes that childhood is the perfect time to “plant the seeds of tolerance and understanding for later life.”
“I wanted to create something that would really engage children and help them to see things from another’s perspective. Something that could equally be used at school, as part of homework, within families or as a tool for children who want to share their diagnosis with their peers,” he said on the Amazing Things Happenwebsite.
And he achieves his goal beautifully. With more than six million views on Facebook, the animated short starts by showing how everyone is different on the outside (height, hair color, etc.), on the inside (favorite food, skills, and ways of communicating), and importantly for autism, in the ways that we think because of how our brains work. It then becomes a jumping off point to what autism is and how the brains of people with autism see the world.
“The special wiring inside an autistic brain can sometimes make the person good at tasks we may find difficult such as mathematics, drawing, or music. It can also do the opposite and activities we find too easy are incredibly difficult to them such as making friends,” narrated the video.
It talks about how people with autism have brains that can become overwhelmed and confused easily when their senses overload. It even gives a first-person view to show kids what a walk down a busy street can be like for someone with autism.
The video also tackles autism behaviors like rocking and flailing in a positive light -- that kids with autism use it to cope with difficult situations, similar to how we fidget or bite our nails when nervous.
“When [these actions] happen it means they are having a hard time. The kind thing to do is not to give them an even harder time,” the video said. “People with autism are not ill or broken, they simply have a unique view of the world and with a little support from their friends they might just be able to share that view with us.”
Amazingly, the short packs this and more into a video just over 5 minutes long -- so you know your child won’t get bored halfway. “There’s so much to say about autism it was a challenge to condense the essence of it into five minutes, but I hope that it serves as an introduction to the subject,” said Alex.