I've written a bit about how Ben connects so strongly to, and learns so readily from videos, movies and TV shows.
He doesn't so much watch videos; he studies them, turns on captions so he can read the dialogue, memorizes scenes and acts them out, mashes up the stories and characters into his own creations, and eventually generalizes the ideas into everyday life. After writing about it, I heard from other parents there are plenty of kids out there who do the same thing.
I found myself thinking, "Someone should take the shows Ben loves and learns by heart and fill them full of social thinking content. That would be a great idea for a children's television show."
After all, it would probably appeal to families with kids who aren't even on the spectrum. I've been in more than a dozen conversations with friends who have typically developing kids and when I tell them about the social skills group Ben attends they ask, "Why can't MY kid get that?"
This idea would not let go of me.
Pretty soon, I had written a decent treatment for a show that I was going to somehow convince someone else to make.
Chris informed me that I was, in fact, making the show, as much as I might protest that I couldn't possibly do it.
And while it seemed crazy it didn't seem entirely impossible. I've developed scripts for educational videos and online content and written a children's television show in college that won a College Emmy award (okay, that was 20 years ago). On top of that, I thought about the amazing people in my network who work in film and video, as animators, musicians and performers who might be willing to help get something off the ground.
Chris encouraged me to just write, come up with something awesome, and worry about the details later. So I did. Then I quietly and nervously sent it to Jordan Sadler and Lisel Wenzke Hartmann of Communication Therapy to see what they thought, from the point of view of a practitioners. I was thrilled when they liked it so much they said they wanted to work on it with me.
So now we have an official project that's taking shape and gathering steam:
Firefly and Friends, a series of videos designed to teach social smarts to kids ages 6-10 using humor, story and music.
Think of it as The Electric Company for the bright-but-quirky set.
Our goal is to write and produce one pilot episode that we can use to convince a sponsor or production partner to fund an entire series. At some point, I'll ask you to kick in a few bucks to help us do this, but not right now.
In the mean time, please check out the website and follow our blog to keep tabs on our progress. Share the link with people you think might be excited to know that we're doing this*.
And please comment and let me know what you think: Do you have potential Firefly and Friends viewers in your family? Would you buy a DVD like this? Educators, would you use this in your classroom?
Firefly and Friends is a bit of a long shot, maybe even a big long shot. But for the moment I'm trying to ignore that fact and just keep working bit by bit as if it's really going to happen.
Maybe, with your help, it will.
* Especially if those people happen to include any experienced video producers located in the Bay Area. Or rich people. Very, very rich people.