Parents, teachers & carers
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Teachers and parents or carers can extend the educational potential of The Transporters DVD through a variety of activities.

Here are some ideas from which to develop lesson plans and activities that will reinforce a child's understanding of emotions, their causes and consequences, and their associated facial expressions.

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Using repetition

Repetition is valuable. When children enjoy a film, they may watch it over and over again. With children who have autism, repetitive playing of a favourite film may be even more common. It is important to allow the child to replay the episodes again and again, as a means of reinforcing an understanding of the emotions and social interaction.

Often, the child may prefer to replay certain parts of the episodes (eg where spinning wheels are shown). If this happens, try to interest the child in watching the whole episode. Help the child to focus on faces and interactions. Make the section she or he is interested in appear at the end as the reward for the child's attention to the emotional parts. You can do this by selecting their favourite Chapter from the Episodes menu.

If a child favours specific episodes, possibly because they feature characters they like, allow these episodes to be replayed. In parallel, encourage the child to watch other episodes, perhaps by looking for the part their favourite character plays in them, or by searching for other characters who express similar emotions to those expressed by the favourite character.

Charlie saves Sally using Grab
Charlie uses Grab to help Sally in Charlie Saves the Day

For example, if the child likes Charlie because he saves Sally's day by using Grab in Charlie Saves the Day, try to encourage the child to watch other episodes in which Charlie appears, other characters who use Grab, or other characters who feel proud (the way that Charlie feels after rescuing Sally).

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Using themes

In the episode guide that comes with the DVD, each episode summary is followed by themes for discussion with the child. The themes include a description of the key emotion, its causes, how it feels and how it can be recognised in others. In addition, themes of social relationship that are brought up in the episode are highlighted for discussion (for example, the importance of keeping promises, or the importance of saying 'sorry').

Each theme includes two types of questions to be discussed with the child: questions about the feelings and actions of the characters in the episode, followed by questions about the feelings and experiences of the child watching the series.

Try to start discussing the themes by using the characters in the series, to avoid the child rejecting discussion of difficult themes (such as apologising). After a child has successfully recognised the themes in the episode, ask about his or her own experience. This will get the child emotionally involved with the themes and could help with the transference of learning into everyday life.

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Selecting by emotion

Select an emotion the child can understand and look for this emotion across the different episodes and in different characters. Look for the similarities in the causes and the expression of the emotion in different characters in the different episodes.

For example, when learning about 'happy', discuss how happiness is the result of doing something one likes, or of getting what you want. Look for examples of this in the different episodes (eg Sally is happy when she gets Dan's passengers because she likes chatting to passengers, and now she will have more passengers to chat with). You can use the episode themes for more ideas about causes of emotions.

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Using the quizzes

Take the episode quiz immediately after watching each episode. This will reinforce the ideas portrayed in the episode. Take quizzes based on each emotion to assess the understanding of a specific emotion throughout the series. Take a mix of questions at an advanced stage, to enhance the child's ability to recognise emotions beyond a specific episode. Start on EASY-level quizzes and move to HARD-level quizzes when you feel that the child can succeed.

Make sure that when answering quiz questions, the child uses information from the facial expressions. Children who have difficulties looking at faces often use situational cues to come up with an answer (eg the question clip takes place in the quarry, so the correct answer will be the one that also takes place in the quarry). Explain to the child that the question and answer won't necessarily come from the same scene, so he or she needs to look at the emotion on the characters' faces to find the correct answer.

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Using language

The series could help to increase the use of emotion words in the child's speech, even when little language is used. Stress the labels of emotions when they appear in the episodes. Ask the child to try to remember all the emotion words in an episode. Encourage the child to use these labels in their everyday speech. Try to use these emotion words explicitly when you speak to the child and to others.

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Using facial features

Many children with autism do not show any interest in faces, and don't know where to look for social and emotional cues in the face. Associate the feelings the characters feel with the expressions on their faces. Show the child how, when something happens to the characters, their expression changes. Show the child examples from his or her everyday life (eg 'Look at your sister's face. She is happy to see you, like Barney was happy to see Jennie').

Draw children's attention to the facial regions that are most important for emotional expressions - the eyes and the mouth. Compare different facial expressions to pinpoint the differences in the shape of the important facial features. Close-up shots of the faces showing their emotions are a strong feature of each episode. You and the child can compare them, to see how the eyes and mouth are different in the portrayal of different emotions. Compare facial expressions of different characters expressing the same emotion and find common features in them (eg all the happy ones smile with their mouth and their eyes).

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Using expressions

Help the child to notice changes in facial expression that relate to changes in the plot. Sometimes this will be clearly stated by the narrator (eg 'Traffic lights were one of Jennie's favourite things. They always made her happy. But as Jennie approached the station her expression changed'). At other times, the transition can be seen only on the character's face. Associate these transitions with the plot.

Explain how the change in the plot brought about a change in the way the character is feeling and in the way this new feeling is expressed on the character's face.

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Using eye direction

Ask where the character is looking and why. Associate where the character looks with what the character knows (eg 'Oliver does not look in Dan's direction; he doesn't know Dan is going to shout "Boo" at him, and he is surprised when Dan does so').

Discuss the role of eye direction in predicting what the character wants to do next and what their intentions are (eg 'Oliver is looking towards Dan and Sally when he wants to have someone to talk to'). Emphasise how gaze direction is a cue for communication with other characters - when a character wants to communicate with another, she or he looks into the other character's eyes.

Note when one character is deliberately avoiding looking at another. Mention how the character is feeling, eg, are they avoiding looking at the other character because they are sorry, ashamed or unfriendly?

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Using mime

Some children with autism use very limited facial expressions. For these, the DVD could be used to enhance the expression of emotion in their face. Select the child's favourite characters and ask the child to mimic them.

Practise expressing the emotions facially in the same way that the characters do. Do it in front of a mirror, or film it and compare it with the expressions shown in the series. Encourage the child to think about what happens to his or her mouth, eyes, forehead, eyebrows, the angle of their head, the position of their neck and shoulders. Create role-play around emotional situations.

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Causes and consequences

Emotions are confusing for children with autism partly because they find it hard to predict what causes emotions. The Transporters offers lots of examples of causes of emotions and their consequences. Encourage the child to analyse the causes of different emotions.

Try to focus on two kinds of causes: causes that relate to the situation (eg getting stuck on the rail makes Jennie sad), and causes that relate to a character's beliefs, thoughts, feelings or wishes (eg 'Charlie believed that Jennie took his school run on purpose. When she said it was a mistake, he was surprised').Look for common features and underlying principles in the causes of the same emotion. Look at the episode themes above for some ideas (eg characters are excited when they are about to do something they like, or something that is special or important: 'Dan is excited about making Oliver laugh'; 'Jennie is excited about going to get the mayor').

Contrast emotions with each other to look at the differences in the context of their causes (eg 'When something I like is going to happen, I'm excited. When something I don't like is going to happen, I'm worried'). Observe the consequences of emotions - how expressing a certain emotion evokes a similar emotion in the other person, eg being kind to someone makes them happy

Discuss what makes some characters respond to the same emotion differently. For example, why were Jennie and Barney happy with Dan's playing around, while Oliver was angry?Discuss quick changes in emotion, and how these result from changes in the situation or in one's thoughts, wishes or beliefs. For example, when Jennie approaches Barney in Barney's Special Day, he is happy because he thinks she is going to wish him a happy birthday. When Jennie just collects her passengers without greeting Barney, he is surprised, because Jennie's behaviour does not match his expectation. When Barney's belief then changes into the belief that Jennie has forgotten his birthday, this makes him sad. Use examples from the child's everyday life to help them understand the causes and consequences of the character's emotions.

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Using real life

Bringing the understanding of emotions from the series to the real world is a principal educational aim of the series. There are several things you can do to help with this. Look for similar emotional expressions on TV, in films and newspapers, as well as in real life when watching other people. Talk about what happened, who the characters were, how they felt and how they showed their feelings.

Choose pictures from magazines that convey different emotions. Try to work out what the people could be thinking or saying, looking at the similarities to emotions in the series. Associate the emotions presented in the series with the child's immediate environment. Discuss examples from their lives. Ask the child to mention such examples from his or her experience. Ask the child to create similar stories to those in the series with his or her own toys.

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