DVD Review: The Transporters

Program to Help Kids Recognize Emotions

The Transporters DVD set
The Transporters DVD set. Photo courtesy of The Transporters


The Transporters is a DVD program designed to teach children on the autism spectrum about emotions. The characters are animated trains, trucks, trams and other transporting devices, each with an expressive human face superimposed on the front. They live on a child's train set, and come to life when he goes to school. Each five-minute episode focuses on a specific emotion, putting an emphasis on facial expressions that convey those feelings.

The program is aimed at children ages 2-8.

What's Included:

The DVD set contains a disk with fifteen episodes and thirty interactive quizzes, plus a booklet to help parents and teachers expand on the program and help kids get the most out of it. The emotions covered by the episodes are: happy, sad, angry, afraid, excited, disgusted, surprised, tired, unfriendly, kind, sorry, proud, jealous, joking, and ashamed.


The brainchild of autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, The Transporters was produced in association with the Autism Research Center at Cambridge University. According to the Transporters website, "Researchers compared children with ASC who watched the DVD for 15 minutes every weekday for one month with children with ASC who didn't watch the DVD. They were also compared to typically developing children who did not watch the DVD." The children who watched caught up to their typically developing peers, while those who didn't remained below that level.

First Impressions:

It's like some sort of freaky Thomas the Tank Engine nightmare, with trusty animated vehicles sporting filmed faces. But it does seem like a good way to get children on the autism spectrum, who may have a hard time with faces but love those trains and cars, to focus on emotions. Watching a five-minute episode every weekday seems like a minimal time investment, and the opportunity to discuss emotions with your child in a meaningful way is always valuable.

Professional Opinion:

I asked Sandy Furia, a speech-language pathologist and co-author of T.A.S.C.: Tools for Achieving Social Confidence, to try The Transporters out with some of the children with autism she works with. Her review:

"The Transporters DVD is probably best for six to ten-year-old children. I liked that the DVD used a train theme for teaching emotions, as most of the children I work with were immediately captivated by the program as soon as they saw the trains. All the children liked the program, and most were able to maintain attention through one episode. The clear emotions such as happy and sad were consistently identified by most after the DVD was paused and reviewed a few times. In my opinion, some of the other emotions were unclear and difficult to identify.

"Overall, The Transporters DVD held the interest of the children. Showing emotions in action is much more meaningful that in traditional two dimensional photographs. Some of the emotions were unclear and the episodes were busy. It would have been helpful to eliminate some of the details in each episode and highlight the emotions more clearly. I would recommend that a parent or professional buy the program with the understanding that the adult will need to be an active participant, pausing and highlighting target emotions as they appear."

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