Sesame Street Has Betrayed Autistics

julia

In 2015, Sesame Street introduced an autistic Muppet named Julia, their first new Muppet in years. When I saw this, I was cautiously optimistic. They had aligned themselves with two groups, ASAN (the Autism Self-Advocacy Network) and Autism Speaks. This was a cause for concern, as one company is actually run by autistics, for autistics. The other is a hate group. Let’s not mince words, that’s precisely what Autism Speaks is.

It seemed at first that ASAN was the group they were listening to the most. Julia was made into a girl, which was a great idea. Most of the time when an autistic character is depicted, they are usually boys. This would be an ideal way to show the audience that both boys and girls can be autistic. Having her be friends with Elmo, Abby Cadabra, and Big Bird was also a great idea, as all three characters are popular with the children who watch. They showed both the strengths and weaknesses of autism, and did not seem to depict it as something terrible, just something that made Julia unique. Her puppeteer was even someone who had an autistic child. And she also had two rods for her arms so she could stim by flapping them.

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The Sesame Street and Autism Project

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Image: a picture from the new storybook introducing a

new Sesame Street character Julia, with Elmo and Abby Cadabby.

Julia has her hands on her ears because the blender in

Mr. Hooper’s store is too loud for her

Sesame Street has created a new project called “Sesame Street and Autism”. This project even has a new Muppet named Julia. This is really nothing new for the show. When I was a fan back in the 80’s, they had a deaf woman named Linda who used sign language and had a giant Muppet dog named Barkly. The project has received both praise and criticism.  The project can be reached at http://autism.sesamestreet.org Personally, I’m conflicted.

Let me talk about what I like first. The story book introducing Julia is great. Elmo shows Abby Cadabby how to interact with Julia and we see both the positive and negative traits in the story. I also like that Julia is a girl, as girls are often ignored when autism is discussed in the media. Even Autism $peaks ignores girls, as I’ve pointed out their trademark puzzle piece is blue because they only care about the boys on the spectrum.

There are ten videos, running from one to five minutes each. We meet four children in these videos (and there’s an animated one with a boy named Ben): Thomas, Yusenia, Louie, and Nasaiah. There’s also a song called “The Amazing Song” that’s pretty much teaching children to treat autistic children nicely.  In the videos, autistic children are shown using AAC, a form of communication using tablets, which is often used by non-verbal autistic children.

Okay, so what don’t I like? First off, the resources. Good, you consulted ASAN, but only after you received pressure from the autism community. Big red flag–Autism $peaks is on your list of resources.  In fact, A$ has been helping fund Sesame Street for years. My regular readers know how I feel about Autism $peaks, so I won’t go into it here.  I will stress that I’m not alone.  Every autism activist and blogger I follow despises Autism $peaks.

Continue reading “The Sesame Street and Autism Project”