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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dear Sesame Street: Don't Over Simplify the Effects of Autism!

Picture owned by Sesame Street
Dear Sesame Street: Don't Over Simplify the Effects of Autism!

There's a new character making her way to the famed Sesame Street and I am excited and hopeful. I was born in the 80's and I grew up loving all of the colorful and zany  Sesame Street characters. The songs, the themes, the diversity of the neighborhood was always ground breaking. Now I am sharing them with my own children.

However, for as many great lessons that I gained from the show, there were some caveats.  Linda the Librarian on the popular show was my first introduction to the hearing impaired as a child. I generalized her condition and for a long time, I thought every one that I met who was hearing impaired was going to be just like Linda, the Librarian. I later learned that the hearing impaired were not all like Linda, the Librarian and it took some adjusting to.

It's for that same reason  coupled with the knowledge and the battle scars and the fiercely protective love that only comes to a Mama raising an Autist for the last nine years that I implore the writers and production team at Sesame Street to resist the urge/editors/powers that be who suggest oversimplifying the effects of Autism on their new Autistic character, Julia.

As a writer and storyteller for children, I know first hand how difficult of a task it is to impart information creatively to young ones.  Writing creatively and storytelling is a super power and the Children Television Network and Sesame Street have long secured their superheroes status. But Autism is very real, very challenging, very emotionally draining, confusing, loving, and sometimes even funny. Every day I watch my little girl grow and learn and struggle with something new. Sometimes it's really painful to watch and deal with day in and out. But every day I am inspired by her strength and resilience. My daughter is beautifully human and flawed, as we all are, not a typecast for children to memorize word for word. My little girl needs real allies out in the world: on the playground, in school, at Walmart, and at Chuck E. Cheese's who understand that just because Julia on Sesame Street app acts one way, doesn't mean all Autists act that way too. Adults and children alike need to see the full spectrum of Autism: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I  would love to see Julia be funny, because children with Austim can be funny! I would love to see Julia hug her friends and tell them she loves them because some Autists are very warm and loving. I would love to see Julia throw a fit and have a meltdown getting off the school bus - because some Autists have difficulty transitioning from school to home. I would also love to see Julia cry while out at supermarket or use echolalia with family and friends. Most of all, I would love for Julia to really give all of our children with Autism a voice and an ally they can count on.

It's a tall order, but I am hopeful. After all, the writers on Sesame Street are super heroes.

Hind's Hands ~ A Story About Autism 

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