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This Kids Show Is Being Praised For How It Portrays Autism

The theme tune: "Pablo thinks differently / Sees the world in different ways."

A new kids show called Pablo debuted on CBeebies earlier this week, about an autistic child who solves problems with his animated friends.

CBeebies / BBC / Via

Autism is a condition that affects how a person communicates with others and the world around them. No autistic person experiences it in the same way; however, problems autistic people can face include difficulty understanding other people, anxiety, and sensitivity to loud noises or light. Attributes autistic people have can include a laserlike-focus interest in certain tasks.

The show, aimed at preschoolers, has got a lot of praise.

"It’s absolutely pouring in," Pablo creator and producer Gráinne McGuinness told BuzzFeed UK. "People are sending us cards and presents and cakes.

"The idea of Pablo came about from wondering if you could create a show that would raise awareness about what it is like to be on the autism spectrum, for a preschool audience. I had the idea for my children who are preschoolers – they are now not preschoolers any more, because it takes a long time to get these things made."

At the start of each episode Pablo experiences a problem. In one, he arrives at a party and is overwhelmed by the noise and number of people, so he escapes back to the family car.

CBeebies / BBC / Via

"Pablo in the real world is largely nonverbal," McGuinness said. In every episode, Pablo draws a picture that becomes an internal animated world where he and his animal friends can evaluate the issue. "Together with his friends, he can rehearse how he is going to handle a situation, work out what the confusion is, and then, in the live-action part at the end, we see that problem, how he was able to face that with a little bit more confidence."

Each of the characters has a different autistic trait. "It is a broad spectrum," McGuinness said, "and one thing that I keep coming back to is that if you met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism."

In a groundbreaking move, all the animated characters are voiced by autistic children. Noa the dinosaur (voiced by Tony Finnegan) is great at problem-solving but finds it hard to read other people's facial expressions.

CBeebies / BBC / Via


Llama the llama (Rosie King) loves to repeat things other people say and has a keen eye for detail.

CBeebies / BBC / Via

Then there's Draff (Scott Mulligan), whose catchphrase is "point in fact" and who loves to learn facts.

CBeebies / BBC / Via

Some episodes are also written by autistic people, a result of head writer Andrew Brenner talking to autistic people about their experiences – the process deepened to the point where some of them were invited to help craft the stories. "We have now got a batch of writers who are brilliant writers, who all see the world in a very different way and think differently, and that for me makes all the difference to the originality of the show," McGuinness said.

The hope is that Pablo will reach a wider audience than just preschoolers. After all, McGuinness said, "It is the parents who control who gets invited to the birthday party."

CBeebies / BBC / Via

She added: "It might just help some parents seek out a bit more information about if my child has a friend with autism. How can I help that child for a playdate at home, make it a nice experience for them?"

Since creating the show, McGuinness said she has only become more aware of the need for it. Autistic people, McGuinness said, "have a huge amount to offer the world. Very often if your language centres are turned off, your creativity is turned on. Or you can be really good at focusing and concentrating and passionate about one single thing that can move on science or transport or engineering or whatever it is.

"People who can really focus and people who can come up with things a bit differently. If we’re not understanding the huge part of our society, then we’re missing out. It’s not just adding to their struggle, we’re also as a society missing out on what that has to offer us.”

At the end of the party episode (spoiler alert), Pablo decides to go back to his cousin Lorna's party to wish her happy birthday and give her a present: one of his drawings.

CBeebies / BBC / Via

You can watch Pablo at 9am on weekdays on the CBeebies channel in the UK, or you can catch up on episodes on BBC iPlayer.

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