This is a really fun and exciting project from the folks over at Sesame Workshop. On World Autism Day, last week, they announced that they are starting a new initiative called “See the amazing in all children” and will focus on children who have autism. If you’ve been watching Sesame Street since the 1970s like I have, you know that even several decades ago, they were among the first to show us children with Down Syndrome and children in wheelchairs intermixed with regular kids in every day scenarios. But, prompted to act in part by the recent CDC statistics that 1 in 68 kids in America has autism, they felt compelled to start this program.
The initiative is a natural extension of Sesame Street’s work around diversity, acceptance, and kindness – and its longstanding message: “We are all different, but the same.”
Having a young child with autism can be challenging for families. Parents may experience feelings of shock, sadness, anger, denial, and loneliness after receiving their child’s diagnosis. These challenges are exacerbated by the sense of stigma experienced by many families of children with autism and by misconceptions on the part of the general public regarding the experience of people with autism. With the increase in autism prevalence, as well as challenges faced by families of children with ASD, the need for quality resources that support children, their families, and the public is growing.
“See Amazing in All Children” will help increase understanding, reduce stigma, and demonstrate the commonalities that children with Autism share with all children. We will also develop resources for families of children with Autism to help them reduce the stress of everyday routines, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, trying a new food, or playing with other children.
You might be asking yourself, “Well, what specifically are the going to do?”
For the General Public: Reducing Stigma. We plan to help the general public develop a better understanding of children with ASD, reduce stigma, demonstrate the commonalities that exist between children with ASD and the general public, and celebrate the uniqueness and talents of every child by leveraging the power of the Sesame Street brand and characters and key media and organizational partners. Sesame has always stood for inclusiveness, so together with our partners, we will create and disseminate varied media messages using our engaging Muppets as messengers to encourage connection between children with ASD and the general public.
For Families of Children with ASD: Facilitating Everyday Routines. We plan to help children with autism and their families reduce the stress of everyday routines by creating digital media tools featuring our Sesame Street brand and characters that break these routines down into simple steps. The tool will be created primarily for parents/caregivers to use with their children and will address activities such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, trying a new food, or playing with other children on the playground, etc.
Last week, to celebrate World Autism Day and announce this new initiative, the Sesame Street folks went to the Empire State Building. When I saw the photos later, I couldn’t help but think of our recent trip to NYC and how we went to the top of Rockefeller Center.
I am really excited that one of our favorite TV shows and brands has decided to do this. To learn more or to partner with us on this initiative, contact them at [email protected]
Addendum: I wasn’t going to say anything about a certain portion of this, but now I feel compelled to since several friends have contacted me. “Did YOU KNOW that this project is with Autism Speaks?”
Yes, yes I knew. When the PR rep first contacted me about it, my heart sank for that very reason. This is my exact response to him: “Ugh…actually I did write about World Autism Day, but I’m in the camp that loathes Autism Speaks. I strongly dislike how they portray families and life with autism. I think they cause more fear against individuals with autism, instead of understanding.
Since they partnered with Sesame on this, I’ll take it as notice that they are trying to do the right thing, but I’m not convinced yet. I will happily promote the “see amazing in all children” stuff, and I still love Sesame, but I won’t promote AS.
You’ll find many parents who are passionate about this–there is a strong disdain for them within the autism community–they actually spend very little of their money on programs and research for autism (their finances have been widely published). Most of their money goes to administrative costs…so they basically exist to exist.”
He thanked me for my candor. Today I see that there is a petition going around about it. I still stand by my original assertion that I will continue to love and promote all things Sesame Street. Also, Sesame Workshop is still looking for partners in this project and I’ve applied. I am hoping that they will take all group and parent opinions into consideration and I think they will. The name of the project “see the amazing in all children” implies to me that there will be a focus on the positive. Other than the fact that AS is also a partner (but not the only partner) in this, I see no reason to totally excuse myself from this.