Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Autism Is Growing in Awareness Around the World Thanks to TV

Popular TV shows like Sesame Street and the new Power Rangers movie embrace Autism and help to dispel popular myths and misinformation

It is always enlightening to see TV and movies embracing a stereotype and helping to dispel myths and misinformation instead of adding to the problem. The children’s television show, Sesame Street, and the new Power Rangers movie are two of the latest to embrace this new trend.

On a typical sunny and happy day on Sesame Street, Abby Cadabby asks her new neighbor Julia if she would like to come outside and play a game. Julia doesn’t respond. Instead, she keeps swinging and eventually moves off to the grassy area and plays with her stuffed bunny toy, Fluffster. This obviously leaves Abby confused, and she heads over to ask Elmo why Julia doesn’t like her and doesn’t want to play with her.

“Julia sometimes does things differently because Julia has autism,” Elmo explains. “Abby can ask Julia to play again. Abby could use fewer words and wait a little bit. That usually works for Elmo.” Within a few minutes, the three Muppets are all playing a game of I Spy together, that Julia quickly wins.

“Sesame Street” producers have said they created Julia to help explain autism spectrum disorder to millions of viewers and present accurate portrayals of the condition on screen, countering decades of what critics have said are stereotypical depictions of autistic people. Many households nationwide with autistic family members are hoping Julia, along with an autistic Power Ranger revealed in a new movie earlier this month, will change the way next generations of children view autism.

It is encouraging to see someone on the Autism spectrum being portrayed positively to other children, helping to remove years of negative images. It helps to show autistic children that they aren’t alone, they don’t have to go it alone, and that there are children who understand. It also helps children that interact with other children affected by autism to see that although they may be a little different, there is absolutely nothing which can’t be overcome with just a little understanding and patience.
Julia won’t appear on “Sesame Street” until April 10, but in preview clips, she speaks in fragmented sentences, usually only when prompted. She doesn’t always greet other characters or answer their questions. She also flaps her hands when she’s excited and is extra sensitive to loud noises – traits common in some people with autism. Still, she happily sings along to the show’s theme song and plays peek-a-boo with Elmo.

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