A nine-year-old autistic actor from Reading will voice the first autistic character on children’s TV show Thomas & Friends.
Elliott Garcia, who the National Autistic Society helped cast, will play Bruno the Brake Car.
Bruno is a “joyful, pun-making brake car” who is detail-orientated and enjoys schedules, routine and knows where all the tracks lead in the area.
Garcia said: “When I won the role of Bruno, I imagined that it was a dream, but it wasn’t! I felt really excited and happy
“It’s great that they are representing autistic characters because I watch the Thomas & Friends series and for there to be an autistic character makes me feel very happy and excited.”
He added that he can relate to the character in some ways, explaining: “His ear defenders I do relate to, because if there’s a really loud noise I can’t cope.
“I can get quite worried about things, I have to think of new strategies, same as Bruno.”
Bruno rolls in reverse at the end of the train, which gives him a unique perspective on the world, as he helps the other engines by keeping heavy cargo steady with his strong brakes.
The character and storylines were developed by Mattel Television in collaboration with US autism organisations including the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and Easterseals Southern California as well as autistic writers and spokespeople.
Autism is a developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world, as described by the National Autistic Society.
Tom Purser, head of guidance, volunteering and campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “It’s important that everyone sees autistic characters on our screens because there are 160,000 school-age autistic children in the UK and they want to see their stories told, but it’s also important that non-autistic children get insight and understanding into what it can be like to be autistic.
Bruno will be seen in future episodes of Thomas & Friends: All Engines Go! on Channel 5’s Milkshake from September 21 at 7am.
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