In April, Autism Awareness Month, the creators of the popular kid’s show Dinosaur Train decided to do their part in raising awareness by introducing a character who has traits similar to that of a person with autism. The character appeared in a two-parter, so parents and their kids had twice as much to talk about.
According to GPB Media, the episodes were “Junior Conductor’s Academy,” parts one and two, which first aired on Wednesday, April 6 and Thursday, April 7, respectively. In part one, all the dinosaur kids, including one named Buddy, are traveling to the Junior Conductor’s Academy in Laramidia, hoping to become Junior Conductors First Class. When they arrive, they meet Dennis Deinocheirus, a dinosaur who knows a substantial amount of information about dinosaurs. Buddy is disappointed, as he hoped to be the smartest student.
Buddy realizes that despite his intelligence, Dennis has trouble making friends. In part two, WXXI reports that the two become friends and must work together with their other classmates to pass some challenging tests.
The show itself worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to spread the word about detecting early signs of autism and other developmental disabilities. One of the best ways for parents to do so is by keeping track of the ages where their kids reach certain milestones. To make it easier for parents, the CDC offers a list of developmental milestones at every age.
With its special episodes that focus on autism, Dinosaur Train helped educate kids about the disorder in a simple, respectful manner. It also gave kids and parents a reason to talk about the disorder together.