Why do autistic people like trains?
Autistic people like trains for multiple reasons, including the wheels, the structured timetables, the order/neatness, the rhythm and sound.
However, before we dive into this question, we first need to understand Autism. A proper understanding of Autism will better equip the reader with a knowledge of this phenomenon.
When I worked on the railroads, I can tell you that I saw many, many groups of autistic kids loving the trains. They would ride the train, count the trains at the station, and love the different models. It was truly inspiring.
Trains have so many technical specifications that appeal to autistic people. Regularly, we had groups of autistic kids train spot for hours & I helped explain to them the different models. They loved it, as did I.
So, now, let’s look into Autism, what it is and how trains and autism are connected.
What Is Autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly referred to as “Autism,” refers to a group of disorders that affect brain development. ASD is a very complex developmental disability that can cause significant behavioral & social challenges throughout life.
There is not one specific type of Autism; instead, there are many subtypes. Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that every person with Autism has distinct challenges and strengths.
Other accompanying medical issues can influence & accompany Autism. Katherine Zeratsky, who is certified in dietetics, breaks it down here.
So when was Autism first diagnosed? Interestingly enough, it occurred in a country with the most efficient railroad system globally, sorry Amtrak. But, of course, I’m talking about Switzerland.
History Of Autism
“Autism” term was first used in 1913 by Swiss Psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler. Eugen was one of the most influential and innovative psychiatrists of his time. He also introduced schizophrenia to describe the condition previously known as dementia praecox.
While still to this day, there is no cure for Autism, and treatment first began in the 1920s with the introduction of Electroconvulsive therapy.
How Common Is Autism
According to the CDC, Autism affects 1 in 44 people. It appears in all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups. However, the most exciting fact is that it is four times more likely to be diagnosed in boys than girls.
Diagnosis Of Autism
Autism can be diagnosed in a child before they turn one year old. Although commonly, symptoms become more apparent and easier to recognize in 2-3-year-olds.
Sometimes, signs of Autism might be very minimal, and diagnosis of the disorder does not occur until a child is at Junior School.
Social Communication Symptoms Of Autism Include:
- Minimized sharing of interest with other people
- Challenges in acknowledging and appreciating their emotions
- Challenges in recognizing and enjoying their feelings.
- Lack of proficiency in non-verbal communicative gestures
- Troubled speech, stilted or scripted
Limited Interest & Repetitive Behaviors That May Be Present
- Setness of ways & serious difficulty of coping with change
- Hyperfocus on specific subjects during the exclusion of others
- The demand of others to be interested in what they are doing
- Very high sensory focus & a detestation for loud noises
- Highly repetitive hand movements, rocking, tapping, or spinning
- Arranging everyday objects in a particular way.
Now that you understand Autism and the signs, let’s dive into the relationship between Autism and trains.
Reasons Why Do Autistic People Like Trains
Trains can appeal to some people with Autism and give them satisfaction and enjoyment for multiple reasons:
- Wheels: People with Autism can love wheels and watching them spin. This is noticed first with toy cars at a young age, cars, trucks, and ultimately trains. Although train wheels are small, there are a lot & when trainspotting at eye level, they stand out. There is an autism test at autismspeaks.org, known as the M-CHAT-R autism test, and this is for parents suspecting Autism in their child.
- Models: There are both passenger and freight; you have steam and diesel trains within these overarching categories. Within these types or classes, you have many different types of axel combinations from 0-4-0 to 4-4-4-4. This allows counting, organizing & tallying of many different varieties. Choosing the correct model train scale is important, see HERE.
- Schedules or Timetables: Trains follow set times, not that they are often on time, but that aside, there is order, organization, and specific standards that get repeated day in and day out, hourly, and pretty much in the rain, hail, snow, or shine.
- Neatness: Trains are on a track & more often than not, they go the same way. They are organized and efficient, and they line up neat and orderly, are somewhat symmetrical, and start and finish in an orderly fashion.
- Rhythm: Trains come, the drop-off, the pickup, and then they depart. Then they do it all again, many, many times. There is a rhythm here. Mind you; many people find this soothing about watching trains.
- Sound: This goes against the standard view that people with Autism don’t like loud noises. James Ward-Sinclair writes a beautiful article; he goes into this HERE.
What Do Autistic People Like About Thomas The Tank Engine
Every child loves Thomas The Tank Engine; many adults do too! ( I do and always have).
Thomas is fun, colorful, and shows some of the attributes mentioned above throughout his journies. There has been such a link to Thomas with autistic children that Thomas & His Friends have been used to help teach and entertain children.
Proposed Reasons That Autistic Children Like Thomas
- Thomas is on track & organized
- Thomas is bright, easy to recognize
- He and his friends have spinning wheels
- His face is friendly and expressive
- Videos are calm, clear and there are no abrupt changes
- Episodes are short and easy to follow
- Thomas is a friend
As mentioned above, Thomas & Friends provides the perfect platform for learning for children with Autism.
Why Do Autistic People Like Trains – Conclusion
As you can see, there are many reasons to answer why do autistic people like trains. I hope this article has helped explain them to you.
Please see a link HERE to 8 autism organizations worth joining or supporting.