The Daily Telegraph
Thomas the Tank Engine gives a platform to autism
AN AUTISTIC train is to join Thomas the Tank Engine’s cast of characters.
Bruno the Brake Car enjoys schedules and routines, and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Sodor’s railway.
He is a “joyful” character who, when overwhelmed by situations, signals his distress or excitement by flapping his ladders or waving his lantern.
Bruno joins Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go! from Sept 21 and will be voiced in the UK by Elliott Garcia, a nineyear-old actor from Reading, Berkshire, who is autistic. The broadcast is part of Channel 5’s Milkshake! programme.
Elliott said: “Bruno is a brake car, and he is a new friend for Thomas and his friends, and he’s also autistic, like me.
“I watch the Thomas & Friends series and for there to be an autistic character makes me feel very happy and excited.” The character was developed with autism organisations in the US, and Elliott was cast with the help of the National Autistic Society in the UK.
Research by the charity found that Thomas the Tank Engine appeals to some children with autism because the characters have clear facial expressions and every train can be identified by colour.
Thomas the Tank Engine has a new friend in the television series: Bruno. Bruno is a brake car; he is also autistic. The locomotives with whom Bruno works or plays “love and respect him for who he is” the programme-makers say. So one should hope. “Bruno enjoys schedules, routine, and knows where all the tracks lead on Sodor” (the island where the Rev W Awdry’s brainchildren puff and whistle). This is taken to indicate Bruno’s position on the autism spectrum. But if the makers really want to extend the “neurodiversity” of Thomas and Friends, they should introduce a character miles off the spectrum, if such can exist. All the locomotives and the official formerly called the Fat Controller are fairly autistic, like Bruno. A loco that hates going on rails and can’t concentrate on timetables would be a different challenge.