Sesame Street, introduced in 1969, is seen in more than 150 countries around the world. Always a champion of inclusion, the highly respected show on October 21, 2015, launched “Sesame Street and Autism.” This initiative has opened to considerable acclaim.
Its anthem,“The Amazing Song,” raises autism awareness and acceptance among its young audience. Christine Ferraro, who wrote the lyrics to the song, explains her connection to autism, in that she has a brother on the spectrum. This led her to feature siblings in the video and other instructional materials, to help these neurotypical children better cope with their situation. In welcoming their new friend, Julia – who happens to be autistic – the Sesame Street Muppets sing in unison, “Every kid is an original; we’re all one of a kind We’re all as different as can be, but in some important ways, we’re all the same – we can all be friends, because there’s so much we can share. We all have feelings We all need a friend who can understand.”
In a video to introduce the show, Julia explains, “lots of kids have autism” And “that means their brains just work a little differently,” she continues. She introduces us to her some of her human friends, like Nasaiah. His mom helps him learn how to play with other boys his age. A family helps a younger sister, Yesenia, with everyday self-care activities. Louie’s father talks about how his son made him “so much a better person, a better father.” Says a mom, “I just think he looks at the world in a very different way than we do. I don’t think it’s a bad way…. I think it’s amazing.” According to Sesame Street executive Sherrie Wilson, “Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally.”
“Sesame Street and Autism. Family Time with Grover.” The beloved blue Muppet introduces us to Angie, who has a very special way with her two younger brothers. Although they are twins and both have autism, they are very different personalities. This is perhaps the best testament to the old adage, “When you have met one person with autism, you have met an autistic person.”
Frank Campagna, the writer of the respected blog “Autism Daddy” is one of the video producers at Children’s Television Workshop. In his blog, he discusses how, after the birth of his severely autistic son, he sought ways in which to spread autism awareness through the award-winning children’ show.
ASAN, the Autism Self Advocacy Network, is also a partner. In a public statement, the organization proclaimed, “Sesame Street should be commended for reaching out to and focusing on the many voices of the autistic community… aimed at ending stigma and increasing understanding and inclusion of autistic children.”
“Sesame Street and Autism” offers a variety of resources, including:
- Daily routine cards to help nonverbal autistic children with their personal care
- An electronic story book, “We’re Amazing 1, 2, 3,” featuring Elmo and Abby and their friend Julia. There’s also “Benny’s Story.”
- Tips for children on being a friend to a peer with autism
- A video, “Being a Supportive Parent.”
- Advice on helping siblings understand a brother of sister with autism
- Assistance for parents prepare for outings
- How parents can explain autism to young children
- Ways in which parents who care for their autistic children can take good care of themselves as well
- Public awareness on what one should say to a parent of an autistic child.
Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street
Come and play
Friendly neighbors there
That’s where we meet….