'Flummox and Friends' premieres its smart social competence programming

Nearly a year after their Kickstarter campaign to create a pilot episode, the creative team behind 'Flummox and Friends' has released their first episode—a smart, funny lesson in social competence. Photo: Flummox and Friends

SILVER SPRING, Md., September 17, 2012 — Slightly less than a year ago, the creative team behind Flummox and Friends started a Kickstarter campaign to secure $30,000 in funding to make a pilot for their show—a funny, live action show intended to teach social competence to quirky kids.

In the end, they managed to raise nearly $34,000, which helped them to move ahead and make the pilot, premiering today. The episode is available to watch and download for free at www.FlummoxandFriends.com, along with downloadable guides for parents and professionals to use with kids.

The pilot features the team at Flummox Laboratories and their friends as they have a party to celebrate Thomas Edison. The episode showcases the unconventional characters and celebrates their uniqueness while teaching the audience when it is important to support friends and “tune in” to the group.

In addition to entertaining and teaching kids, the show (and its downloadable guides) give parents and caregivers the vocabulary to follow through. “Flummox gives a roadmap to parents and educators as to how to speak to these issues and practical ways to help work through them,” says co-creator Liesl Wenzke Hartmann.

“The thing I love about Flummox and Friends,” says co-creator Jordan Sadler, “is that it teaches kids why we care about social competence. Our message is not, ‘Look at others and listen to them just because we say so,’ but rather, ‘When we listen to others and connect with their ideas as well as ours, others feel good and understand that we like them—that’s the basis of friendship.’ After all, that’s the real reason we do those things, isn’t it?”

Treating their target audience—kids, many of whom will likely be on (or near) the autism spectrum—with respect was a high priority for the Flummox team, headed by executive producer Christa Dahlstrom.

Wenzke Hartmann says, “My favorite aspect of the project is how it truly respects children as individuals and helps them to feel like they are not alone in their struggles. It is so important for us all to learn to treat children, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, with respect.”

Matt Friedman, an adult on the spectrum and author of Dude, I’m an Aspie!, converted his whimsical and illuminating cartoons into a short animated cartoon that is featured between segments of the pilot. “Flummox and Friends is groundbreaking for its acceptance of kids who are different, as they are, rather than expecting them to change,” says Friedman. “So it’s a show that manages to convey an important message while also being laugh-out-loud funny.”

And laugh-out-loud funny it is, at least in the Autism Unexpected household, where all three of my children watched the episode with grins on their faces. My son on the spectrum spent the remainder of his afternoon miming parts of the show and scripting the lines, “In the group! Out of the group!” (You’ll understand after you watch.)

Sadler says, “The pilot episode exceeds my wildest expectations—and having been part of this project since day one, my expectations were sky high to start with. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.”

Now that the pilot has been produced, the next steps are to raise money from investors to self-produce and distribute a full season of Flummox or to be picked up by a network.

“Positive testimonials from viewers and data that shows that lots of people are watching the pilot and talking about it goes a long way to helping us gets the funds or sponsorship to make a series,” says Dahlstrom.

To that end, the producers have included a survey on the Flummox website for viewers to fill out to provide that feedback. They also hope to see their fans sharing and talking about the pilot episode with friends and families and through their social media networks.

“My dream is to be able to continue making more shows and guides for the series and to share them with educators and families all over the world,” says Wenzke Hartmann.

Dahlstrom, Sadler, and Wenzke Hartmann hope that viewers are looking for a new kind of programming that entertains while teaching in a whole new way.

“Kids know when we are being real with them, and they will learn from authentic adults who are giving them honest answers and respecting their intelligence,” says Sadler. “Flummox and Friends tosses a dose of real, honest-to-goodness kid humor into the mix and—presto!—we’ve got their attention and full engagement.

“That’s the Flummox and Friends difference.”

Watch the pilot episode, sign up for the mailing list, and get more information about Flummox and Friends on the show’s website at www.FlummoxandFriends.com.

Jean writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey. Read more of Jean’s work at Autism Unexpected in the Communities at the Washington Times. Please credit Jean Winegardner and the “Communities at WashingtonTimes.com” when linking to this story.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Jean Winegardner

When Jean had her first child in 2001, "autism" was about the scariest word she could think of. Six years later when her second child was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, a form of autism, she was just happy to have a word to help him get the services he needed. Her autism journey has been full of tears, laughter, love and at least one attorney.

Jean blogs about her life with her autistic son, Jack, on her blog, Stimeyland. Her two neurotypical children, Sam and Quinn (one older, one younger than Jack), make frequent appearances there as well. Also at Stimeyland? Jean's quirky sense of humor.

She also runs AutMont, an events calendar listing autism-related events in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Raising a child with special needs is hard for so many reasons, but after living with Jack, Jean wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. Come along with Jean as she experiences the joys that come with parenting a special kid.

You can email Jean anytime at stimeyland at gmail dot com or follow her on Twitter, where, as "Stimey," she offers her world view in snippets of 140 characters or less.

Contact Jean Winegardner


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