Sesame Street Takes A Giant Step For Autism Awareness

Which is why I was thrilled when all of Facebook was agog over the news that the popular kids show Sesame Street had introduced a new character this season a little girl called Julia, with autism. As with everything new that is launched in the world today, this too has its fair share of detractors, from people writing on the Sesame Street website saying that they wanted to see something for autistic adults, to one moms rant on how none of the kids is being abeled by giving them a voice to talk about their own condition.
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Gopika Kapoor, the author of well known books like Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom (and Wit) for Raising your Child in a Stress-free and Spiritual Environment, asks all the mommies to spend their time doing activities that they enjoy rather their following certain norms that restrict them to do so.

Gopika Kapoor

When my son Vir was diagnosed with autism at three, among my many worries and fears was how he would behave with people around him, and how they would be with him. Both my husband and I have huge families and a large and varied circle of friends, and so naturally, I was worried about how they would all react to him, especially when they heard his diagnosis.

I started out being somewhat neurotic and paranoid (understandably so), then extremely defensive and ridiculously protective, till I have managed to reach a state of acceptance, and even joy about the little man he has grown to be, autism and all.

One of my worries was that I would get asked questions about whether Vir would turn out to be like Rain Man, the only well-known portrayal of an autistic savant at the time, amazingly played by Dustin Hoffman. But most people with autism are not savants (individuals with autism who have extraordinary skills not exhibited by most persons) like Hoffman’s character was, and as the saying goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autismâ€_x009d_.

Fortunately, we have been blessed to have amazingly supportive family and friends, but there was the stray case of the neighbour who would invite all the other kids to her place for pizza while excluding my two, or the mom who told her son not to play with Vir, that too while I was watching. Did my heart break? Of course it did, but I brushed these episodes under the carpet, and where and when people showed even the slightest inclination, tried to enlighten them about what autism is and what it means for kids like Vir to be living with it.

Which is why I was thrilled when all of Facebook was agog over the news that the popular kids’ show Sesame Street had introduced a new character this season – a little girl called Julia, with autism. And to get the world to embrace Julia and autism, they’ve launched a storybook, a series of flash cards, and short but insightful video stories of several kids with autism, told from the perspective of parents, siblings and friends.

 

As with everything new that is launched in the world today, this too has its fair share of detractors, from people writing on the Sesame Street website saying that they wanted to see something for autistic adults, to one mom’s rant on how none of the kids is being “abeledâ€_x009d_ by giving them a voice to talk about their own condition.

Image Source: eisforerin.com

How do I see it? This is a resource that addresses kids by using a medium and speaking a language they understand. I haven’t seen anything like this in India, except for a short-lived TV series called ‘Aapki Antara’, which included a child with autism in a convoluted family drama. With the introduction of Julia, I see this as one more step towards education, one more towards acceptance, one more towards inclusion. And that is why, I think Julia’s presence on Sesame Street is just ‘au-some’!

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Image Source: www.healthaim.com

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