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.
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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