Expert: New Engine Puts Thomas and Friends on Track with Autism Community

Theo makes his debut in a new film titled “Journey Beyond Sodor,” scheduled to be released in the United States on DVD on Tuesday.



Thomas & Friends

Thomas & Friends is set to introduce a new line of "experimental engines," including Theo, who is described as genuinely kind and caring, but with an awkward habit of blunt speaking. He also has a geared drive system that often does not run smoothly, making sudden jolts when his cogs jam. Each characteristic is a subtle reference to traits on the autism spectrum.

Theo makes his debut in a new film titled "Journey Beyond Sodor," scheduled to be released in the United States on DVD on Tuesday (August 22).


Wesley Dotson, assistant professor of educational psychology and co-director of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research, Texas Tech University College of Education, or (806) 834-0783


  • "More people have been diagnosed with autism today than ever before. More people today know someone who's on the autism spectrum than ever before, and awareness has been an important part of how the field has gotten there."
  • "I think one of the biggest misconceptions about autism is that it is somehow a disability that means you can't have a life. That's not the case at all."
  • "People with autism can get married, they can have a job, they can drive a car, they can live in the community, and children with autism can go to school and learn and be just as academically and socially successful as their peers. They just need help to get there."
  • "When you have a character, who appears and shows them a possibility, you're giving a model, you're giving something a parent can talk about and say 'Hey, if Theo can do this, you can do this,' 'Hey, Theo did that, you do that.'"

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at Texas Tech Today Media Resources or follow us on Twitter.

The Burkhart Center

The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research

The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research is part of the College of Education and is the premier center in Lubbock for research, education and assistance for families affected by autism.

Research at the center covers three major aspects: developing strategies for the preparation of teachers to meet the needs of students, examining ways to develop parent support networks and preparing individuals with autism as they transition from school to adult services.

The Transition Academy, the center’s flagship program, is home to about 15 teenagers and young adults who have an autism spectrum disorder. They come to campus Monday through Friday to learn job and life skills, including how to live independently, and many have jobs through partnerships with campus and community organization.

The Burkhart Center is named for Jim and Jere Lynn Burkhart in honor of their grandson Collin.

Make a Donation Online

Facebook - Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research
BurkTech Players Use Theatre to Help Those with Autism
Facebook - BurkTech Players