See The World As a Child With Autism Does In This Touching PSA

Autism Speaks, the Ad Council and BBDO New York partner to create poignant films told from the viewpoint of a child with autism.

A new PSA drive to help people recognize the first signs of autism launches November 5 with a series of whimsical 3-D and stop-animation films, which tell the story of a child with autism from his own perspective.


The TV spots were created by ad agency BBDO New York, in partnership with the Ad Council and autism research and advocacy organization, Autism Speaks. The animated films were inspired by a boy called Jacob, who did not speak until the age of four. Various scenes highlight some of the key signs of autism, such as sensitivity to light, lack of eye contact, speech problems and repetitive behavior. The imaginative 3-D world was built by Lobo Productions and some of the animals featured are based on Jacob’s real life toys. Behind-the-scenes footage shows how the world was created.

The challenge for the BBDO creative team was that every child on the autism spectrum is different, so conveying the signs in a way that parents might recognize is difficult. Mark Anderson, BBDO creative director, explains in a statement that this was one reason behind opting for animation, “to create an open canvas that each parent could imagine their own child in”.

The new work is the latest iteration of the “Learn the Signs” campaign, which is aimed at helping parents and carers notice the early warning signs of autism. Despite the increasing prevalence of autism, research indicates parents are unaware of many of the signs and do no seek help early enough. Accessing help at an early stage can result in significant improvements throughout life.

Learn the Signs is itself an evolution in the long-standing creative relationship between BBDO, the Ad Council and Autism Speaks, which began almost a decade ago with PSAs aimed at raising awareness of the prevalence of autism and later moved towards highlighting early warning signs.

About the author

Louise Jack is a London-based journalist, writer and editor with a background in advertising and marketing. She has written for several titles including Marketing Week, Campaign and The Independent.