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Is Pete the Cat for autism?


Pete the Cat is a popular children’s book and cartoon character created by James Dean. The Pete the Cat books and shows feature Pete, an anthropomorphic cat, who experiences different adventures and learns lessons along the way. Some viewers have wondered if Pete the Cat was created specifically for children with autism. There are a few reasons why this question comes up:

  • Pete often experiences strong emotions, like frustration, excitement, sadness etc. But he ultimately solves problems and regulates his emotions in a positive way. This could appeal to children who need support with emotional regulation.
  • The storylines are simple, repetitive, and predictable. This format is often recommended for children with autism.
  • Pete’s experiences are relatable for many children, whether or not they have autism. The themes are universal – friendship, school, family, trying new things etc.

So was Pete the Cat actually created with autistic children in mind? Let’s explore this question further.

Was Pete the Cat created for children with autism?

James Dean, the author and illustrator who created Pete the Cat, has shared that Pete was not specifically created for children with autism. However, he thinks the books have appealed to some kids on the autism spectrum because of the repetition, predictability, and emphasis on emotions.

In an interview, Dean said: “The common thing I hear is that the repetition and the mathematical aspect of it really helps draw autistic children in. The colors and the simplicity of it really makes it easier for them to comprehend and predict what’s coming next.”

So while Pete the Cat was not expressly made as an “autism storybook”, many children with autism seem to connect with the character and stories.

Why do some think Pete the Cat is good for autism?

There are a few specific reasons why the Pete the Cat books and shows seem well-suited to some kids on the autism spectrum:

Predictable, repetitive structure

The Pete the Cat stories tend to have a very predictable, repetitive rhythm and structure. For example, in many stories Pete encounters a problem, he feels an emotion about it, then thinks of a solution and ends up resolving the situation. The stories repeat common phrases like “It’s all good” and “Don’t worry, be happy.”

Repetition and predictability are very helpful for many children with autism. It allows them to know what’s coming next and learn the sequence of events.

Emphasis on emotions

Pete often sings little songs about how he is feeling, like “I’m feeling groovy” or “I’m feeling blue.” Naming and expressing emotions is an important skill for children with autism working on social-emotional development.

Relatable themes

Pete’s everyday adventures about things like going to school, trying new foods, moving to a new house etc. are very relatable for all children. But these everyday activities can cause particular anxiety for some children with autism. So seeing Pete successfully navigate them with a positive attitude can be reassuring.

Bright, simple illustrations

The Pete the Cat books have very clean, simple illustrations dominated by solid bright colors like blue, green, red and yellow. Some research suggests bright colors can be visually stimulating and engaging for children with autism. Simple predictable images are also useful for autistic kids who can become overwhelmed by too much visual information.

So in summary, while Pete the Cat wasn’t expressly created for autism, many of its key features appeal to and benefit children on the spectrum.

What do experts say about Pete the Cat and autism?

Many experts on autism and special education recommend the Pete the Cat books as useful tools for engaging with autistic children.

For example, speech pathologist Carol Westby, who works extensively with autistic children, included Pete the Cat books in her recommended reading list, noting the repetitive structure and patterns help children on the spectrum.

Board certified behavior analyst Megan Miller also recommends Pete the Cat, writing: “The sing-song repetitive phrases provide lots of opportunities for practicing back-and-forth interactions.”

Several autism organizations like Autism Speaks and The Autism Society of America have featured recommendations of Pete the Cat books on their websites and resource guides for families. They note how the simple design and themes can appeal to autistic senses and challenges.

So while not expressly designed for autism, many experts see the value in Pete the Cat stories for engaging and helping children on the spectrum. The repetitive structure, emotional focus, bright colors and relatable themes have a positive impact.

Examples of how Pete the Cat can help kids with autism

To make the benefits of Pete the Cat more concrete, here are some examples of how the stories can positively engage kids across the autism spectrum in different ways:

Building routine

The repetitive structure of Pete the Cat stories can help build a sense of routine and predictability that children with autism often thrive on. For non-verbal children, acting out elements like Pete’s hand motions or dances can be a fun way to interact.

Naming emotions

In the story Pete the Cat: I Love my White Shoes, Pete steps in different colored things, ruining his shoes and making him angry, sad, grumpy etc. Parents can pause the story and engage the child in naming each emotion Pete feels. This builds emotional vocabulary.

Trying new foods

In the story Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, Pete turns his hatred for zucchini into love by imagining they are something else when he puts on magic sunglasses. This can encourage imaginative play to make trying new foods fun rather than scary.

New activities

Pete confidently learning how to surf or ride a bike even when he fails at first models positive persistence in trying new activities, which can be hard for autistic children.

Reading comprehension

The simple, predictable storylines allow opportunities to ask children on the spectrum reading comprehension questions they can successfully answer, like “How did Pete feel?”


In summary, while Pete the Cat was not expressly created for children with autism, his stories are very appealing and useful for engaging autistic children. Key features like repetition, emotional labeling, bright colors, simple storylines etc. line up well with strategies experts recommend for working with and helping children on the autism spectrum. Pete models positivity, problem-solving and provides lots of opportunities for language, emotional and social skill development. So ultimately, while Pete is great for any child, he has many unique benefits for those with autism.

Pete the Cat Characteristic Benefit for Children with Autism
Repetitive story structure Provides predictability & routine
Naming emotions throughout stories Builds emotional vocabulary
Relatable everyday themes Opportunity to work through common challenges
Bright, solid color illustrations Visually engaging and easy to process
Simple language Improves reading comprehension