Focus: Communications - Three minutes with ... Emma Bolton, National Autistic Society

How did you come up with the idea for your new book?

We know from talking to our members and autism professionals that many autistic children love Thomas the Tank Engine. Research has shown this could be because of the bright colours and clear facial expressions, which make the characters easy to identify, and the calm scenery featured in the stories.

So we decided to produce a book called How Do You Feel, Thomas?, designed to help autistic children relate certain emotions to the facial expressions used by Thomas and his friends. The book was launched in Hamleys toy store in London last Saturday, and 30p from the sale of each book will go to the National Autistic Society.

Did you work with any partners to produce the book?

In 2001, HIT Entertainment generously granted us the image rights for the Thomas and friends brand. Since then the NAS has worked closely with HIT on a number of different fundraising initiatives and raised a total of £600,000 as a result. The initial idea for the new book came about after many discussions and meetings with HIT Entertainment.

Is the book for autistic children only?

Thomas and Friends is the number one pre-school brand in the UK, so we aimed to create a book we thought would be educational and helpful for all children, but with a specific focus on children with autism. The book is a perfect early novelty format for children who are learning about the link between expressions and emotions.

What feedback have you had?

The book has only just been published, so it's difficult to say how successful it will be - but there has been an excellent response from meetings with customers, including Hamleys, Ottakar's, Waterstone's and WHSmith. There will be an initial print run of 15,000, but we expect the books to sell out quickly.

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