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Sesame Workshop Aims to Help Kids Understand Autism

Sesame Workshop Aims to Help Kids Understand Autism



Sesame Workshop's Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative aims to help all children better understand autism and combat the stigma of the spectrum disorder.
 

Sesame Workshop’s—the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street—Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children is a children’s education initiative that aims to combat the stigma experienced by children with autism and their families. In helping children develop a sense of tolerance and understanding, Sesame Workshop hopes to provide the best chance of success for every child and aims to help children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder, according to Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop.

The initiative works toward helping neuro-typical children gain a better understanding of what they have in common with children on the autism spectrum instead of focusing on what is different, according to Westin.

“Sesame has a long history of looking at issues from a child’s perspective,” Westin said. “We’ve always been able to bring up difficult or taboo issues to help children cope.”

One in every 68 children is on the autism spectrum, providing a high chance that any child shares a classroom with a child who has autism. As part of the initiative, Sesame Workshop offers a free app that provides videos and other content that can help parents, teachers, and day care providers help children with autism cope with everyday moments from brushing teeth to bed time and bath time. The show also introduced the character Julia (pictured above, center), Sesame Street’s first Muppet with autism, to help children see what makes her different but also the same as other children, which goes along with the TV show’s mission “different but the same.”



“When you think of the power of popular media to open minds and change cultural norms, Sesame Street is a really wonderful place,” Westin said. “In terms of introducing a character like Julia, you learn that just because she doesn’t look directly in your eye doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be your friend, and just because she doesn’t like loud noises doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to play. There are all sorts of ways to reduce misconceptions from a child’s perspective.”

With the help of Exceptional Minds, the nonprofit vocational digital arts school for young adults on the autism spectrum, Sesame Workshop created and released various videos on the Sesame Street YouTube channel and website featuring children with autism to increase children’s understanding. Exceptional Minds was awarded the Joan Ganz Cooney Award at Sesame Workshop’s 14th annual benefit, which celebrated Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, June 1.

To learn more about the initiative, visit autism.sesamestreet.org.


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Melissa Wickes

Author: Melissa Wickes is a graduate of Binghamton University and the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. She's written hundreds of articles to help New York parents make better decisions for their families. When she's not writing, you can find her eating pasta, playing guitar, or watching reality TV. See More

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