Thursday, April 10th, 2014
Sesame Workshop has a new initiative, See Amazing in All Children, to help educate the public about autism. They’ve teamed up with Autism Speaks with an aim of combating, as they say, “the stigma and isolation so often experienced by kids with autism and their families.” Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that produces Sesame Street, will also create digital tools and resources to help reduce the stress of everyday routines, including brushing teeth, getting dressed, trying a new food and playing with other kids. It will work with other organizations such as Exceptional Minds, a vocational center and animation studio for young adults on the autism spectrum, to create content.
The initiative officially kicked off with Abby Cadabby lighting the Empire State Building blue, for World Autism Day. “We felt we could play a critical role in reducing misconceptions by highlighting the commonalities children with autism share with all children,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s Senior Vice President for Community and Family Engagement. “Together with our partners, we will leverage the power of our engaging Muppets to help bring this message to children, families and communities.”
I was thrilled to hear the news. At the same time, as the parent of a child with cerebral palsy I did have a twinge of “But what about my kid?” Just like children with autism, Max deals with plenty of misconceptions about his condition. Other kids, and sometimes adults, don’t know how to approach him. They think of him as a child who’s very much not like them when, in reality, the opposite is true. It’s usually up to me to pave the way.
Sesame Street has an admirable history of including children with disability in their programming. You may have read ”Welcome To Holland,” Emily Perl Kingsley’s 1987 essay about raising children with special needs. The mom of a son with Down syndrome, she got a gig as a writer for Sesame Street and became a champion for inclusion on the show. This past year the show introduced a Muppet service dog who helps a girl in a wheelchair. There’s also Traction Jackson (TJ), a boy in a wheelchair who’s appeared in computer-animated segments:
I have hopes that Sesame Street’s autism initiative could change perceptions about kids with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other special needs. Every little bit of awareness helps, especially when it’s coming from a program as respectable and far-reaching as Sesame Street.
From my other blog:
Photo credit: Gil Vaknin © 2014 Sesame Workship. All rights reserved.