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'Pablo,' a U.K. Cartoon About an Autistic Boy, Is Coming to the U.S.

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A cartoon about an autistic boy named Pablo is making it’s way to the U.S. on April 2, World Autism Awareness Day. “Pablo” was met with success on CBeebies, a BBC program for children in the U.K.

Pablo is a 5-year-old boy who draws imaginary animal friends with magic crayons that make his creations come to life. Together, they navigate everyday situations that make Pablo feel anxious or confused.

Each animal friend portrays a characteristic of autism. Mouse is sensitive to noise and other sensory information. Llama has echolalia, so she repeats what others say. Noasaurus is a dinosaur that has a big heart, but has trouble expressing himself with words.

“The art world of the show is very much the inner world of Pablo,” Gráinne McGuinness, the show’s creator, told The Mighty. “The show is designed to put as many traits of autism on screen as possible so that through getting exposure to traits of autism, audiences would then understand them.”

Understanding autism can help children grow meaningful relationships with each other, she added.

“Some people might not understand how to deal with it or understand it,” Jake Williamson, the voice of Pablo, told The Mighty. “If kids are going to understand autism, then that’s going to help all the children with autism because they’re not going to feel like they’re the only one. Sometimes, when I was younger, I felt like I was the only one, that I was different.”

Williamson, 10, is on the autism spectrum, as are the other actors featured as part of the main cast of “Pablo.” Each episode takes inspiration from real-life experiences of autistic individuals.

McGuinness had the idea for the show after watching her children interact with her nephew who is on the spectrum. She said if her children had understood her nephew’s perspective a bit more when they were preschool-aged, they probably would have gotten along better. She wondered if a children’s show could help teach other kids about autism by letting them see characteristics of it in a show.

“We could all learn that flapping isn’t something that makes somebody different. It’s actually really a nice thing to do,” McGuinness said. “Or if someone is sensitive to sounds and has a meltdown because of that today, it doesn’t mean to say we can’t be friends tomorrow.”

“Pablo” airs at 8:30 am ET on Universal Kids, NBCUniversal’s kid’s network.

Originally published: March 30, 2018
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