Research shows watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) overcome common skills deficits

boy facing tv

A new study by researchers at Texas Tech University shows that watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood may be especially beneficial to children with ASD.

Children with ASD often struggle with food selectivity (trying new foods) and transitioning away from preferred activities (stopping play when asked). And it just so happens that these are two skills taught in episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. New research by researchers at Texas Tech University—to be published in an upcoming issue of Behavior Analysis in Practiceinvolved two 5-year-old boys with ASD (in the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am a co-author on the research project).

Each boy was tested before the study on his willingness to try new foods and to stop play when asked—neither boy engaged in either skill at baseline. Then, each boy watched episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that addressed these specific skills. One of the boys began trying new foods after watching the related episode twice, and ended up trying 6 new foods over the course of the study. The second child tried a new food after watching the episode only once, and ended up trying 9 new foods over the course of the study. In addition, the first boy stopped play upon request after watching the related episode once. Not only that, he stopped play upon request four consecutive times after watching the episode. The second boy’s ability to stop play also improved after watching the related episode several times.

Now, this study involved only two young boys with ASD at similar levels of functioning—it is by no means representative of all children with ASD. But, it is the first study to show that educational programming on television can help children with ASD acquire new skills that many of us take for granted.

Regardless of whether or not you have a child with ASD, what have your kids learned from watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood?

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