‘All Our Friends Are Different, but We Love Them Just the Same’: World Autism Awareness Week
Published: March 28, 2018
Looking at the Yo Gabba Gabba! Facebook page, it’s hard not to notice the stream of comments from parents of autistic children, who are praising the show for the effect it had on their kids.
“My two boys love your show,” reads one comment, from Zay. “The youngest is non-verbal, and I’ve never seen him respond to any other show like Yo Gabba Gabba!”
“DJ Lance, my beautiful three year old autistic daughter loves you!” reads another.
This week is World Autism Awareness Week, and in recognition, WildBrain has been speaking to parents and taking a closer look at the reasons why Yo Gabba Gabba! had such an impact on these special children’s lives.
In this blog, one parent – Chrissy W, from Chicago – explains the reasons why the show had such a profound effect on her two daughters, Maddy and Zoey, who both are diagnosed with autism.
(Property of Chrissy W)
In my family, our girls literally grew up with Yo Gabba Gabba!
I love the show, and the girls have been watching it ever since they were babies. The characters are like extended family. In fact, a Plex doll takes the place of a security blanket for one of my daughters, and she brings him everywhere!
My five year old girls, Zoey and Maddy, are both diagnosed with autism, but ‘present’ a bit differently. However, Gabba ultimately really appeals to both of them. When I think about it, I’d say that this was down to five main factors which were incorporated into the series.
(Property of Chrissy W)
Music plays a huge part in reaching kids diagnosed with autism, and I feel it almost relaxes their brain. For example, my daughter Zoey is, for the most part, nonverbal, but when she hears the songs on Yo Gabba Gabba!, she has perfect pitch and can sing just like you and I, complete with all of the lyrics. It’s quite amazing!
She absolutely connects to all of the songs in the episodes, and loves to sing and dance to them. The moves in the ‘Dancey Dance’ segments and general choreography is also really simple, which makes it easy for them to follow and imitate.
2. The characters expressions are pretty stagnant.
For the most part, the characters faces do not change. In fact, this really only happens when they’re excited or sad. For some kids with autism, it is hard for them to read facial emotional cues. Whilst the Gabba characters expressions are more than obvious, they are never overwhelming, which makes them perfect for kids who have processing disorders. (This is why many autistic children do not have good eye contact, as their vision sensory profile can often feel ‘overloaded’).
3. Episodes are packed full of bright colors and vibrant images.
Between the characters, the background of Gabbaland, and the guest stars costumes, the vivid colors draw the children in, and keep them engaged.
4. The simple but really important social stories.
As my children’s development has improved, they can now better connect to the social stories in each of the episodes. For example, my daughter Maddy started ‘scripting’ the show, which has been a great way for her to deal with small problems that arise in real life. (For those who don’t know, ‘scripting’ is when a child imitates the going’s on in a show, either by reciting the lines, or acting it out a particular scene.)
For example, in one episode, Muno accidentally knocks down Foofas block tower. Ultimately, Foofa tells Muno “it’s okay”, and they work together to fix it. Maddy has learned from that episode that accidents happen, and now says “it’s okay, we will fix it together” when something happens, just like Foofa.
That is just one example, but children with autism really gravitate to simple social stories to help learn all types of things.
5. The celebration of diversity without being so blatantly obvious.
Unlike Sesame Street which actually has a character with autism featured in it, Yo Gabba Gabba has always celebrated differences and strengths through all characters. Just like the song, “All My Friends Are Different – But We Love Them All The Same”, Yo Gabba Gabba celebrates differences without totally isolating one particular type of child with a particular diagnosis. Gabba teaches us to include everyone – disability or not – and to accept as well as celebrate everyone’s individual difference!
Head over to the official Yo Gabba Gabba! YouTube channel to watch compilations from all of your favourite episodes.
Posted by Katie Bend