Special Needs Now

We LOVE Sesame Workshop's Incredible New Autism Initiative!

Sesame Street has introduced a new Muppet named Julia, who has autism, as part of its new initiative to spread acceptance of those on the spectrum.

Sesame Street's Julia Muppet with autism Jesse Grant/Sesame Workshop
I have some big autism news: Sesame Workshop—the folks who brought us Elmo, whose stated mission is to help kids "grow smarter, stronger, and kinder," and who have already touched millions of lives across the globe—has turned its attention to raising acceptance for those on the spectrum. Hooray!

This morning, the organization launched a new initiative, Sesame and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, which focuses on educating communities, adults, and children about autism. "We heard about the connection children on the spectrum had to the Muppets, so we started to do research," says Jeanette Betancourt, Ed.D., SVP of US Social Impact for Sesame Workshop. "We quickly saw that the Muppets and Sesame had a role to play, not in the diagnosis, but in bringing children together."

And that's the heart of "See Amazing"—recognizing the commonalities between kids with ASD and their peers, and celebrating them. "All kids like to play, they like to have fun," Dr. Betancourt says. "And those similarities are what we wanted to emphasize."

To this end, Sesame has created a tremendous amount of free materials, all of which are available on its website or as a free iPad app.

Kids with Muppets Elmo and Julia on Sesame Street Jesse Grant/Sesame Workshop

Some of my favorite highlights include:

  • digital storybook featuring Elmo, Abby, and Julia, a new Muppet who has autism. (That's right, a Muppet on the spectrum—I'm so excited about this!).
  • The "Amazing" song, which brought tears to my eyes with its joyful celebration of kids on the spectrum.
  • "Benny's Story," a short animation created in part by kids on the spectrum.

There are also resources for siblingsparentscaregivers, family, and friends, and wonderful tools like Daily Routine Cards.

In addition to all these resources, Sesame also wants to hear from you! They're asking for families to use the hashtag #seeamazing on social media to share your stories, pictures, and videos.

Elmo reading to autistic young girl Jesse Grant/Sesame Workshop

Sesame Street has been a part of our household almost from the moment I brought my oldest son Liam, a non-speaking 7-year-old with autism, home. As a baby he had Sesame friends as toys, we read Sesame books, and at age 2 he discovered Elmo's World. The clear, consistent structure of Elmo's videos still soothes him when he gets overwhelmed and makes him laugh. Given my son's dedication to all things Sesame, I'm so happy to know that "See Amazing" exists, and I can't wait to see all the wonderful things it does for autism acceptance. Pass the word along, and I look forward to reading all your #seeamazing moments!

Jamie Pacton lives near Portland where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.comFacebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter @jamiepacton.

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective