New Kid On The Block Julia Building Autism Awareness
Just in time for autism awareness month, Sesame Workshop is introducing a new friend to its program for kids across the world.
Julia is a young Muppet with red hair who loves to sing and carries a stuffed bunnyshes also Sesame Streets first autistic character, created to build awareness and understanding among kids and families.;
Theres a lot of potential for Julia to create inclusion among children with autism, said , who works with autistic patients;and their families at Ascensions Dell Childrens Medical Center of Central Texas. She;leads the hospitals child and adolescent psychiatry program.
Dell Childrens and Seton are part of part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the worlds largest Catholic health system.
Sesame Workshop also added;educational materials;about autism, available online in English and in Spanish.
Meet Julia will debut April 10 on HBO and PBS kids.
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The character Julia makes her television debut April 10 on Sesame Street on various platforms where the show’s programs can be found, including PBS Kids, HBO and YouTube. She will initially appear in English and Spanish in the U.S., Australia, the U.K. and Mexico and will subsequently appear in more languages in countries throughout the world later in the year.
“It’s not like there is a typical example of an autistic child, but we do believe that Julia, we worked so carefully to make sure that she had certain characteristics that would allow children to identify with her,” Westin said. “It’s what Sesame does best, you know: Reaching children, looking at these things through their lens and building a greater sort of sense of commonality.”
Julia Battles Autism Stereotypes
Sesame Street: Abby Cadabby & Julia Sing Sunny Days
Because the autism spectrum is so wide-ranging, its impossible for Julia to represent every autistic child, so the shows producers chose instead to focus on particular traits. For example, the decision to make Julia a girl was done to combat misconceptions that primarily boys are on the autism spectrum. Julia doesnt talk much, and doesnt make a lot of direct eye contact. Shes also sensitive to loud noises, a trait some children with autism exhibit, but she is also very smart and has a good memory. Theres no perfect way to depict autism with one character, but Sesame Street is hoping Julia, whose puppeteer has a son with autism, will encourage everyone to be more sensitive and empathetic to those with autism.
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Validating Each Familys Feelings
Rachel Fein, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist who works within the Autism Center at Texas Childrens Hospital, said she understands why self-advocates may be offended by the messaging in the kit. She added, however, that her responsibility as a provider is to offer as much evidence-based information as possible while also validating a familys feelings.
I dont tell families how they should feel;after they learn that their child has autism, but I certainly validate those feelings, whatever those might be, said Fein, an assistant professor of psychology in the department of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. There are some families that, their journey to finally getting their child evaluated or finally getting the services that they needfor some its not a surprise for them, in fact, its almost a relief, because they have a name to describe some of the things that theyve been seeing all along.
But, Fein added, other families struggle with hearing the information.
Some families, they describe it as grief, Fein said. Other families, they just describe it as, I want the best for my kid; I want them to have the best life that they can possibly have. And I think that can be really challenging, especially for some of the self-advocates. They hear that and it can be saddening to hear, and it can be offensive, but I also think its coming from a place of a parent who never wants their child to experience any sort of struggle or pain.
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Im extremely sensitive to the opioid epidemic. As I wrote in these pages in February, I have had close friends die of overdoses. And I confessed that I want to scare my own children out of ever using drugs: Its poison. You will die. I dont want to go to your funeral and sit in the front row, shaking and shell-shocked like my friends mother. I want you to live.
But I meant that for when they grow older and learn to understand our fallen worlds darknesses. I talk to my 9-year-old about drugs. I told my 6-year-old about the loss of my friend. Im not imploring my 3-year-old, who has already aged out of watching Sesame Street, to lay off drugs. Teens and tweens, meanwhile, dont watch Sesame Street, a show meant for preschoolers.
All a small child will hear is that a characters mother is gone. Thats pushing fear on kids without the necessary context: Will my mother have to go, too? Will I be left with people I dont know?
We keep hanging these serious issues on ever-younger kids, and its causing them lasting damage.
Last year, The Washington Post reported that in the National Survey of Childrens Health for ages 6 to 17, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012.
When we fail to protect our children from all the scary things they will face in the adult world, its no surprise that they experience a spike in adult ailments like anxiety.
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How Sesame Street Created Julia The New Muppet With Autism
This spring, “Sesame Street” introduced a Muppet on the spectrum. Go behind the scenes with 60 Minutes to see how the show’s first character with autism was developed
- 2017Sep 03
Entertaining and educating children on television for almost 50 years, the residents of;”Sesame Street” have become household names. There’s Big Bird, Abby Cadabby, and Oscar the Grouch. Some, like Elmo, Bert, and Ernie, need only one name.
Now they have a new friend: Julia.
This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl visits the set of “Sesame Street” to report on the new Muppet. Julia has appeared in an online initiative since October 2015, and as some viewers may already be aware from these videos, Julia has autism. Now she’s joining the gang of “Sesame Street”;on television.
On “Sesame Street,” creating a new character means making a new Muppet, and in the video embedded in the player above, Stahl visits the Jim Henson Workshop to see how it’s done.
What did it take to build a character like Julia?
“Well in this particular case, it takes a lot of sensitivity,” Stahl says. She interviewed Rollie Krewson, a puppet designer often referred to as “Elmo’s mom,” who has been with Jim Henson’s company since the 1970s. Krewson created Julia’s Muppet with consideration down to the smallest detail. ;
Once built, Julia was ready for the set. Stahl and the 60 Minutes crew were there as “Sesame Street” filmed her first episode.
What Can We Learn From A Muppet
Ripperger-Suhler hopes Julia will give children and families a venue for generating understanding and acceptance in themselves and others.
This awareness is especially meaningful given the high prevalence of autism and the importance of inclusion among children, she said.
Dell Childrens specialists see children with autism and other mental and behavioral health disorders.
Services will expand when a new mental health unit at Dell Childrens is expected to be complete in spring of 2018.
Thanks to a generous challenge gift from Nyle Maxwell and his family, any community donations toward the project will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $3 million.
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The 100 Day Kit features a persistent narrative that having a child like me or Sesame Streets Julia is like having a child who has died. The kit even has an entire section outlining how parents may go through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. Then there are smaller suggestions that children like me are a tragedy: In one parental anecdote, a mother complains about how a kid at her childs preschool who was diagnosed with leukemia is getting all the attention she deserves, as if having a child with cancer and a child with a developmental disability are at all comparable. For the record: Nobody has ever died of autism.
Elsewhere, the guide suggests a restrictive gluten-free, dairy-free diet for autistic children, which has no scientific support. This is listed alongside medically validated autism interventions like occupational therapy.
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Now the Autistic Self Advocacy Network , an organisation run by and for autistic people, announced it had cut ties with Sesame Street after the childrens show partnered with Autism Speaks to make the Muppet the face of a public service campaign encouraging early screening and diagnosis of autism.
ASAN has accused Autism Speaks of using language of acceptance and understanding to push resources that further stigma and treat autistic people as burdens on our families.
It says that resource materials from Autism Speaks encourage parents to view autism as a terrible disease from which their child can get better.
I think part of why people feel so let down right now is that Sesame Street, as a show, is very, very personal to a lot of our members and a lot of people in the autistic community, said Julia Bascom, an autistic self-advocate and executive director of ASAN, explaining that many autistic people have relied on the show as a learning tool.
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Sesame Street At : Five Defining Moments
Sesame Street has produced nearly 5,000 episodes, won 193 Emmy awards, and now broadcasts in 150 different countries. But these five milestones in its first 50 years say so much about its success.
Since first airing on television on 10 November 1969, millions of children have grown up hearing the classic theme tune “Can you tell me how to get, how get to Sesame Street?”
Over that time it has undoubtedly changed early childhood education around the world.
Sesame Street Hits The Mark With Autistic Character Now We Just Need More
We need to see autism in all different shapes, colors, genders and behavior patterns.
- Carl Frisell
When my son was first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder , I knew next to nothing about it. So, hes going to be like Rain Man? I asked my husband. At that time, Dustin Hoffmans performance in the movie Rain Man was my only point of reference for autism. I had visions of my child growing up to become a math savant who insisted on watching Jeopardy every day in a mental institution, just as it was portrayed in the film.
My husband had a different cultural reference. Do you remember the little boy on St. Elsewhere? I did not. He showed me a few episodes that he had on DVD that featured the character of Tommy. This character was one of the doctors children a quiet child who played by himself and was prone to tantrums that came out of the blue. That little boy did not seem like Rain Man at all.
The cases of ASD have increased in recent years. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts the number at 1 in 68 children in the United States who are diagnosed with some form of an autism spectrum disorder. Which means that almost everybody knows at least one person diagnosed with ASD. So where are these characters represented in popular culture? They are few and far between. For kids, there are even fewer opportunities to see a character with autism; until recently it has only been represented in adult-related media.
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World News In Pictures
AFP via Getty
Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, said this rise in popularity of social media has also raised the profile of the autistic self-advocacy movement.
They advocate for services and support like occupational therapy, speech pathology, and augmentative and alternative communication, especially for those who are nonverbal or need assistance communicating. They also want better inclusion in schools and greater availability of supportive therapies in the general community.
We are a generation that has experienced the harms of having autism policy research and services being something about us, without us, and we have sought to take our rightful place in the national conversation on autism with the goal of ensuring future generations will not have to go through what we had to go through, said Mr Neeman, who served as one of Barack Obamas appointees to the National Council on Disability.
Many self-advocates credit autism-rights activist Jim Sinclair for starting the movement, with a pointed open letter to parents in 1993 that criticised the culture surrounding autism and the emphasis on a cure.
The essay, Dont Mourn for Us, steered the conversation from grieving parents to their children: We need and deserve families who can see us and value us for ourselves, not families whose vision of us is obscured by the ghosts of children who never lived.
What do autistic people want to say about autism?
How Sesame Streets Muppets Became Revolutionaries
Now celebrating its 50th year of broadcasting, Sesame Street remains committed to pushing the boundaries for social change.
Steve Merrill:;Take me back to 1967, when Joan Ganz Cooney pitched the show. There was debate about whether kids could even learn from a TV show. What was she thinking?Rosemarie Truglio: Well, Sesame Street is a product of the civil rights movement. In the mid-1960s, Joan Ganz Cooney was a very young producer who was trying to level the playing field, trying to help all children get ready for schoolnot just the kids who had more advantages and may even have had an opportunity to attend preschool.
The only show before us was Mister;Rogers, but his focus was very different. His focus was on the social-emotional skills. And Joan was really focusing on the academic skills. Later, when she determined that children can learn from television shows like Sesame Street, that it can have an educational impact, she started addressing what we call this whole-child, comprehensive school-readiness curriculum. Producers, writers, animators, musicians, directorsall working hand-in-hand with the educators to design curriculum that is appropriate for the target audience, which was 4-year-olds.
Merrill: Four-year-olds? I still kind of like it.
Merrill: Really? Laugh-In?
Merrill: Youve mentioned in other interviews that Grover is your favorite character. Why Grover? And what are kids supposed to learn from Grover?
Merrill: Wow. Thats big.;
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Kami Brings Hiv/aids Awareness To South Africa
Kami, from South Africas Takalani Sesame.
Despite advances in medicine and treatment for HIV and AIDS, South Africa remains one of the nations most affected by the virus. Wanting to combat ignorance and fear surrounding the disease, 5-year-old Kami was introduced as the first HIV-positive Muppet. Kami, whose name means acceptance in Tswana, first appeared on Takalani Sesame, the South African version of the show in 2003. Tamis advice covers everything from how HIV is transmitted to how to deal with grief when someone you love passes away from AIDS. Kami has become somewhat of an international spokesman for the cause, appearing alongside Desmond Tutu, Oprah Winfrey, Laura Bush, Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Clinton in order to raise awareness for the disease.
One Person With Autism
Expanding the conversation around autism has been an ongoing struggle for advocates, in part because autism exists on such a wide spectrum.
When talking about autism, I think its really important to remember the entire phrase, which is autism spectrum disorder, meaning that each person with autism really has a distinct set of strengths and challenges, Fein said. I always think about a quote from Dr. Stephen Shore, whos a famous autism advocate who also happens to be on the spectrum, and he always says that if you met one person with autism, then youve met one person with autism.
On Julias debut Sesame Street episode, Alan embraced this truth perfectly when he spoke to Big Bird about what autism meant for Julia.
When it comes to individuals with autism, Fein added, one of the best ways to make sure people feel included and understood is to simply ask them about their preferences. For example, some people prefer to be referred to as autistic individuals,;she said, while others prefer to be known as individuals with autism.
I think that the main takeaway is to be respectful and to be inclusive, and how you go about that means asking the person, Fein said. Dont make assumptions, but find out: how do you want to be talked about?
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“Basically, in terms of vulnerable families, we’re looking at families who may have particular stressors in their lives that are impacting their young children,” Betancourt says, “whether it’s economic or social emotional stresses or differences that they’re handling at the time.”
Parents of children with autism told officials at Sesame how important the show was for their kids. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in 68 American children have autism.
Julia started last year as a character in Sesame’s books and digital offerings. Sesame decided on a two-fold mission for the related campaign “See Amazing in All Children,” to give children with autism and their families someone to identify with and those that don’t a window into their world. The materials appear on a dedicated site.
Sherrie Westin, an executive vice president at Sesame Workshop who oversaw the initiative, said the campaign quickly struck a chord.
“One of my favorite stories is a mother who said that she used the book to explain to her child that she had autism like Julia,” Westin said, shaking her head slightly as she teared up. “This became the tool for her to have a conversation with her 5-year-old daughter.”
“And you’ll love this. At the end her daughter said, ‘So I’m amazing too, right?’ “
The surfacing of a new permanent Sesame character is rare. Westin said it’s the next logical step.
Abby joins Julia, Sesame Street’s newest friend, in singing a show favorite, “Sunny Days.”