Special needs

This awesome animation breaks down autism for kids worldwide

A viral 5-minute animation—in nine languages—explains autism in terms kids can understand.

This awesome animation breaks down autism for kids worldwide

Photo: Amazing Things Happen via YouTube

Your child most likely knows at least one other kid with autism—or maybe your child is on the spectrum herself. Autism affects 1 in 68 people. But it’s not always easy to explain such a complex condition in simple terms; it can express itself in different ways from child to child. Some of the hallmark signs of autism might look puzzling from the outside or feel bewildering to the child who has the condition and doesn’t quite grasp why they don’t respond to the world as neurotypical classmates do. But a charming new animated short geared towards kids aged 7-11 breaks autism down in just five minutes--and it's going viral in nine languages.

Created by UK-based animator Alex Amelines, Amazing Things Happen uses simple language, relatable situations, appealing kid characters and a delightfully plummy British professor-type narrator to engage elementary school-aged viewers. It starts by celebrating ways in which we’re visibly different from one another, such as in our height, hairstyle and eye colour. Then it goes on to examine how we’re different in ways we can’t detect from the outside, such as in our fears, special skills and the unique ways we might perceive the same image—such as the famous duck/rabbit illusion.

Comparing our brain to a computer fed information from each of our senses, it shows how the brain of a person with autism can become overwhelmed by sensory overload. Then to drill home this concept, we get to see the same street view from the perspective of a neurotypical kid, then again, as perceived by a kid with autism whose senses are revved up by all the sights and sounds. The unremarkable setting becomes a place so unbearably stimulating that it is verging on scary.

The narrator explains that many of us have strategies for dealing with overwhelm, such as nail biting. He shows some of the classic responses associated with autism, such as rocking and arm flapping. Then he asks us not to get cross with, ignore or mock a person who’s simply showing signs that they’re having a hard time, but instead to take the time to understand and get to know that person and all they have to offer.

“People with autism are not ill or broken, they simply have a unique view of the world,” he concludes. “And with a little support from their friends, they might just be able to share that view with us.”

Here at Today’s Parent we’re excited to see this animated short popping up in all our social feeds. And we're thrilled it has been translated into so many versions, to help children around the world better understand autism. The original English version has already had more than 102,000 views, and we encourage you to share it. Your kids will thank you—beyond helping them wrap their heads around a complex issue, they're going to love this film simply for being quirky, smart and sweet.

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