Many of us think that we have an understanding of autism but in reality, unless you work in the field, are autistic or have a child, family member or friend who is, generally speaking our knowledge is minimal but (hopefully) this is all about to change.
cBeebies in the UK launched a new show, Pablo, in 2017 which reached Australia’s shore earlier this year and it’s incredibly interesting and I hope empowering to many autistic people.
Pablo, utilizes a mix of live action and 2D animation and is the first animated TV series to star an autistic character. What’s more, it’s also the first TV programme with an all autistic core cast and it is reported that the show provides an accurate portrayal of autism, rather than what the rest of the world thinks autism is like using “real-life experiences” of children who are on the autistic spectrum to inspire each of the episodes.
The show is not only an opportunity for kids and parents to learn about how their autistic friends think and process, but also a chance for young autistic actors to get an important opportunity and kids who are on the spectrum to have a show to watch with people who are like them.
So, what’s it about? Pablo (aired on ABC Kids) tells the story of a 5-year-old boy, Pablo with autism and what the world is like through his eyes. Each episode opens with Pablo encountering a new or difficult situation which threatens to overwhelm him. These problems may be particularly trying for Pablo, but that doesn’t mean other children (and some adults) won’t be able to relate to them. To deal with the problem, Pablo draws a picture and then enters a colourful ‘Art World’ filled with animals, each of whom represents an aspect of his personality. Pablo enlists the help of his animal characters to help him navigate everything from friendship to anxiety.
The imaginary animals which Pablo draws help him in situations that make him feel anxious, such as going for a haircut, overwhelming supermarket trips, sandwiches cut into different shapes, new smells, sounds and changes to routine;
- Mouse: very reliable and organized, but she’s also very sensitive to sounds and smells. She talks in the third person.
- Noasaurus: very kind and gentle, good at maths, but can get nervous and clumsy.
- Tang: big fun goofball of the group, always ready to do anything, but has problems reading social cues and isn’t always very careful.
- Wren: very energetic, but can have difficulty staying focused and flaps her wings a lot for comfort.
- Llama: sweet and curious. She has echolaila, meaning she repeats things that people say.
- Draff: the smartest of the group, highly intelligent and precise. His most commonly used phrase is ‘in point of fact’, as he loves explaining things.
As the creator, Grainne McGuinness explains Pablo is a show about Pablo, not an essay about autism. He’s a brilliant character who thinks differently and sees the world in different ways. This show puts him front and centre as someone who has a more diverse, atypical type of brilliance. ‘He’s not a label, he’s not a stereotype. He flaps because he’s Pablo, and all the wonderful things that are about him are just who he is.’
Please take a moment to view some of these episodes, ABC Kids will be running the show again from June 24th. The show is truly entertaining, enlightening and informative equally for my 4 year old as for myself.
For more information on Autism and Pablo
Autism Awareness Australia, Understanding Autism: https://www.autismawareness.com.au/could-it-be-autism/understanding-autism/
ABC Kids, TV Show Pablo http://www.abc.net.au/abcforkids/shows/s4820028.htm
Autism UK, Stories Pablo: https://www.autism.org.uk/about/stories/pablo.aspx
Education VIC, Understanding Autism: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/parents/additional-needs/Pages/autism-understanding.aspx