The Disney Channel & Aspergers

My eldest son, who has AS, likes to watch the Disney Channel. My younger son, who also has AS, derisively calls it 'Disney & Ketchup', likening it to fast food that's all the same (he has a point). But then, their AS presents very differently to each other - that's the thing about Asperger's - no two people have exactly the same symptoms which is why it can be so hard to diagnose.

I believe that Disney programmes such as Shake It Up, Wizards of Waverley Place, iCarly and Sonny With A Chance, can help people with AS develop their social awareness.

The Disney Channel offers very moral programmes. They teach right from wrong, model behaviours, discuss social dilemmas and show conflicts that are resolved by taking the right course of action. Most of all, they're not subtle and are over-acted, so are easy for a child with AS to get to grips with, without confusion.

They portray young people who are integrated with the world and their surroundings, who relate well-and sometimes not so well- to others, often in an overblown way, which is good when you can miss subtle cues. They show the cool kid, the bully and the nerd and hold mirrors up to their behaviour enabling their traits to be magnified in a way that is easy for a child with poor social understanding to comprehend.Sometimes bad things happen to the central characters and we are shown how they deal with it and get through it. Sometimes, to me as an adult, it can seem puerile, but it's that simplicity that works on a level that gets the message across.

While it wouldn't be a great idea for a child to copy the actions of the characters exactly and over-act in real life (a danger in a child with AS), it is possible to use these programmes to discuss why certain things happened, why certain reactions were shown or why particular misunderstandings happened.  While real life isn't as clear-cut or sugary as Disney life, I think it is possible to use the programmes as a learning tool for exploring social situations and to apply the lessons learned by the characters in the programmes to every day situations.

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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO, Editor at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two young adults with autism. Tania is a member of the Whole School SEND Expert Reference Group for SEND Leadership, the Ofsted SEND Inspections Stakeholders Group, and sits on the Advisory Board of the Royal Holloway, University of London Centre of Gene and Cell Therapy.
She is also an experienced broadcast and print journalist & author. Tania also runs a PR, web & social media consultancy, SocialOro Media. She is a Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate with Ehlers Danlos syndrome.
Tania Tirraoro
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CasdokSpecial Needs Mumguerrillamum Recent comment authors

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guerrillamum
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I agree on this – we used Tracey Beaker for the same purpose (there’s only so much Disney channel a girl can take… sorry!) It is important to take your social skills training where you can find it!

Ellen

Tania Tirraoro
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Hi Ellen – Funny you mention Tracy Beaker – I was thinking the same thing though my son is addicted to Disney now!

Casdok
Guest

C will only watch DVDS.
Much can be learnt from Disney.