In Love With Julia – Not So Much

The following post is a very articulate and thoughtful breakdown of Sesame Street’s new Autistic character and their website pages of “resources”. I have watched the videos and agree with Erin. The ableist language makes my stomach churn. (Autistic people are not magical. We’re just people.) And the person first language hits me every time it’s used.

Are there good things? Some. It’s nice they’re making an effort to educate children/people about autism. As an autistic adult I still clearly remember difficult aspects of my childhood and the struggles I had. Many of those struggles are still present in my life. I liked the parts where autistic traits were presented as just that – traits. Parts of personality. Things a person likes or doesn’t. Things to be accepted as normal and a part of that person. These might be different than neurotypical people, but they shouldn’t be considered wrong. Something to be corrected or fixed.

But the “parent support” videos are sickening and the lack of actually autistic voices troubling. These might as well have been videos about people’s pets – how to care and train and interact with them. And there are still too many things definitely WRONG. Like making your child make eye contact. Forcing your child to endure socially expected activities like birthday parties.

Why is it SO important for a child to blow out a candle? I can tell you why she never wanted to do it. Because it’s not important and has no meaning for her. Why make such a big deal about it? Will it alter her life if she doesn’t blow out candles on her birthday? Does she really have to endure parties if it makes her so uncomfortable? Is your desire for cultural “normality” more important than her physical and psychological well-being? Arg. I detested birthday parties (ANY parties). They were noisy and confusing and ultimately overwhelming. They still are. My parents invited neighborhood kids when I was four and I sat on the other side of the room watching them. She never did it again unless I asked for it. Instead of forcing that on me every year, we celebrated quietly doing something I wanted to do. They didn’t know I was autistic, but they were at least more sensitive to my needs and limits than whatever societal norms were. I’m SO thankful for that.

Anyway, Erin’s post is a much more articulate analysis of the Sesame Street “resources” than I could do.

Erin Human

Everyone might be tired of hearing about Sesame Street’s new autistic muppet by the time I post this, but before I wrote up a full review I had to make my way through all of the materials at the “Sesame Street and Autism” site. I watched all of the videos, either when the kids weren’t around or with headphones while they were otherwise occupied, because I wanted to screen them first before I let them view of it – and, yes, it is weird to have to screen Sesame Street, of all things, for harmful messaging, but such is the state of the mainstream dialogue on autism that I knew there were likely to be some things I would not want my kids to see or hear. And there were.

What is Sesame Street and Autism?

First, a brief explanation of what Sesame Street and Autism is and isn’t. There’s been…

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#autismspeaks10 and #actuallyautistic #autismchampions – part one

The recent attempt of actually Autistic people to be heard above (and in spite of) Autism Speak’s 10 year anniversary has been interesting, to say the least, and obviously not at all what they were expecting. Certain outlets of the media “attempted” to cover the story – including MTV, which I tried to comment on only to realize that the story had been pulled – with disheartening results. This article is reblogged from Jess (Diary of a Mom), one of the most intelligent and eloquent voices I’ve heard out there for Autism advocacy.

a diary of a mom

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{image is a screen shot of a tweet: @autismspeaks On 2/25 Autism Speaks turns 10-years-old! Tell us how AS has touched your life at AS10Years@gmail.com #AutismSpeaks10}

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{image is a screenshot of a tweet: @stevesilberman Autistic people have taken over the hashtag #AutismSpeaks10 to oppose negative messaging. It’s quite a thing.}

The past couple of weeks have been nothing if not colorful in the world of autism advocacy. It all began when, ahead of its 10th anniversary last Wednesday, Autism Speaks asked its 168,000 Twitter followers and 1.5 million Facebook fans to use the hashtag #AutismSpeaks10 to share “how AS has touched your life.” The response was, I would imagine, not quite what they were hoping it would be.

In an article detailing what happened next, Virginia Hughes, BuzzFeed Science Editor, wrote:

Instead of heartwarming stories of gratitude, the hashtag has sparked hundreds of angry missives from autistic people and…

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Girls Just Want To Have Fun

I’ve been editing like crazy and preparing to start teaching again on Monday, so haven’t had much time for blog posts. But a friend posted this and it blew me away. I love the original by Cindi Lauper, but Chase Holfelder, Major to Minor, has added a new dimension. Apart from his obvious musical skills, it’s amazing how a slight interval change can transform the entire song. What do you think?



B B Shepherd is an musician, educator, and author and can also be found at Glistering: B’s Blog