Sesame Street introduced a new autistic character named Julia.
Now I know some parents don't allow their young children to watch TV but I'm one who loves a free babysitter while I get the dishes done. As we all know Peppa Pig is Jane's favourite she has also come to love some of the classics like Babar and Sesame Street. After seeing a few of the newer episodes I noticed a new character named Julia. This sweet little doe-eyed character has autism. She is helping remove misconceptions about autism and is teaching both children and families about acceptance.
“Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centerpiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism. We are committed to continuing our efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of autism, as part of our mission of helping all children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder.”
-Sherrie Westin, EVP of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop.
It's important to teach our children that others might be different than us and that it's okay to be different. Seasame Street is already done such a great job with teaching kids how to interact with children who might have autism.
Here are a few things you can teach your child if he or she has an autistic kid in their class or at daycare:
Include the child who might seem left out. The child with autism might not understand the game your kid is playing so encourage your child to calmly tell the autistic child how to play the game and to give the child what he or she needs in order to play the game. For example, if your kid is playing with toy cars your child can include the autistic child by bringing him/her a toy car and saying "You can play cars with me. Here's a car."
Be patient. Often kids with autism are slower to understand and will look away from you while you are talking. Children can find this confusing and think they are being ignored. Be sure to reassure your child that this behavior doesn't mean they are being ignored and encourage them to be patient.
Listen and try to understand. Autism affects each child differently so their way of communication might very and be hard to understand. They may not be able to verbally communicate what they need or how they are feeling.
Get a grown up. If your child doesn't know how to handle the situation remind them that if they need help to get a grown up. "If you see someone being mean to your friend or if you don't know how to handle the situation come get me or find a grown-up to help you."
It's important for you children to understand that kids with autism might find it hard to talk, listen, understand, play, and learn in the same way that others do.
This is just a small list to help get you and your child started. There are numerous great resources for parents at Autism.SesameStreet.org. Videos for parents, videos for kids, flashcards, reading material and much more. Check it out!
Images from Autism Workshop Sesame Street