Pro­fes­sor Si­mon Baron-Co­hen

… pushes for­ward re­search into autism

The Jewish Chronicle - - PEOPLE -

WHAT A tal­ented fam­ily. He may be the first cousin of co­me­dian Sacha Baron Co­hen, but Pro­fes­sor Si­mon Baron-Co­hen is gain­ing in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional ac­claim in his own right.

The 48-year-old di­rec­tor of the Autism Re­search Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge (ACR) has spent 25 years re­search­ing the con­di­tion. Last week he launched a novel an­i­ma­tion-based DVD to help young chil­dren with the dis­or­der. Early re­sults are ex­tremely promis­ing.

The Trans­porters — nar­rated by Stephen Fry — is a se­ries of 15-minute episodes fea­tur­ing the ad­ven­tures of eight an­i­mated toy ve­hi­cles with car­toon hu­man faces grafted on them.

Prof Baron-Co­hen tells Peo­ple: “Chil­dren with autism are not very good at look­ing at hu­man faces, so we thought the DVD would be a good way of eas­ing them into read­ing faces and emo­tions.

“Al­though pre­lim­i­nary, re­sults of an eval­u­a­tion into the DVD as an in­ter­ven­tion are promis­ing. A group of 25 chil­dren with autism were given copies of the DVD to use over a four-week pe­riod, for 15 min­utes per day.

“We saw a dra­matic im­prove­ment in chil­dren’s abil­ity to recog­nise hu­man emo­tions.”

Now based in Cam­bridge, he grew up in Gold­ers Green, North Lon­don. Like his cousin, Prof Baron-Co­hen is an “old Hab­er­dash­ers’ Aske’s boy”. He went on to gain a psy­chol­ogy PhD at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don and says that his sis­ter — who has se­vere phys­i­cal and men­tal dis­abil­i­ties — “might have been a fac­tor in his in­ter­est into autism.”

The £500,000 project was funded by the De­part­ment for Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport, in part­ner­ship with the ACR and Cat­a­lyst, an an­i­ma­tion com­pany. Forty thou­sand DVDs have been pro­duced and are be­ing given free to ev­ery child on the autis­tic spec­trum aged two to eight on a first come, first served ba­sis.


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