Monday, September 24th, 2012
Sesame Street is the only program I can recall from childhood that featured kids with disabilities. And I watched a lot of TV. (See, Mom? It didn’t ruin my brain!)
Kids with disabilities are still severely underrepresented in the media, but Sesame Street is once again leading the way. Episode 43, airing October 12, November 12 and November 30, will feature Hercules, a real-life service dog who helps Muppet dog Brandeis land a job as a service dog, too.
Canine Companions for Independence, a national nonprofit that provides trained assistance dogs, worked with Sesame Street on the episode. In it, yellow Labrador retriever Brandeis is looking for a job. Folding laundry and weeping floors do not work out for him. He’s not interested in a reality TV gig (OK, I made that up).
But then Elmo points out that Gina is training a dog to be a service dog. She explains that a service dog like Hercules works with people who need “special kinds of help.” Brandeis starts training to do things like opening drawers, turning on lights and picking up and bringing things.
Finally, after weeks of training, Brandeis becomes a service dog. He meets Liliana, who is in a wheelchair. When her book bag slides off her lap, Brandeis fetches it for her. When she wants milk, Brandeis opens the door to Hooper’s store. They adore each other.
This. Is. All. Kinds. Of. Awesome.
Thank you, Sesame Street, for helping the world to better understand kids with special needs—and for opening the world’s eyes to the powers of assistance dogs, too.