I know that when you were raising kids, it was in the olden days of TV where there were like 4 channels and only kids’ programming certain times and days. Well in our enlightened and tech-savvy household, we’ve got lots of screens and modes of kid programming delivery at our fingertips.
But when you combine easy and constant access to entertainment, heat advisories for the past month, and no school with JB’s ASD tenacity for choosing one favorite thing and grabbing tight–you get the Thomas Onslaught.
JB used to like a variety of shows. He loved Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Elmo, Bubble Guppies, Dino Dan, and lots of different movies on DVD. They are all pretty annoying for adults, but at least we had a variety of annoying and he wasn’t obsessed too deeply with any of them. But then he somehow latched onto Thomas the Tank Engine. Oh that pesky little blue train. Now he is obsessed with collecting Thomas and his friends toys, watching it, singing the songs, checking out Thomas books at the library, and reciting entire episodes during story-telling times. He is constantly telling me, JB Sr., EB, the nannies, and even my dad that we are “Gordon,” “Percy,” “Peter Sam,” “Sir Handel,” Bill,” and a myriad of other characters from the dull, boring, and lifeless tales of trains.
I cannot figure out what is so attractive about the show to him. I figure if I can decipher the draw, maybe I can find other replacements? The stories are not remotely compelling that I can figure, EB doesn’t take much pleasure in them, she’ll tolerate Thomas occasionally but prefers to continue to sample a variety of options. My only guess, knowing JB’s proclivities in the past, is that he loves the very fact that there are so many different characters and names to file away in his mental encyclopedia. And as a visual person primarily like all his ASD kin, maybe the fact that all the Thomas episodes look the same if they’re muted is comforting? There isn’t an over-stimulation factor–no flashy graphics, loud sound effects, and sotto voce narration? He can talk endlessly about the dozens of characters on the show just like he used to like to discuss species of eagles or types of mammals he memorized in previous favorite books?
Not sure. But this craze has gone on the longest of any favorite show and the fact that it has spread to books, songs, and toys, makes me think that JB has found his own personal Star Trek. When I saw Temple Grandin last fall she mentioned that lots of people she knows with autism are Trekkers because they enjoy the detailed world in the plotlines and identify strongly with the unemotional Spock. It’s also common for ASD folk to like Star Wars, and other sci-fi/fantasy. The world of Thomas and friends on the Isle of Sodor may have that same draw. There are locations, every moving part has a face on it and goes by a name, and there are seemingly endless episodes and licensed products available as well.
Whatever the cause of the boy’s unmatched adoration for Thomas and friends, I know I’ll be checking out eBay, Craig’s List, and sale fliers this fall for economical ways to make it a Very Merry Thomas Christmas and birthday for our little man!
Your sick-to-death-of-Sodor protegé,