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Sesame Street's Julia Arrives For April

SesameStr_20YearsAndCountinNOTE:   It's interesting how many media outlets have picked up the Sesame Street story just in time for April. Surely the launch of a cute Muppet with autism weeks before Autism Awareness month begins was carefully planned. Many of us struggle with the celebratory tone of the month.  At AofA we look at the month as a chance to commemorate the very real struggles people with autism of all ages face, along with their families. I hope the program will educate parents at least a bit.  Me? I'm 22 years, and still counting.... Kim

By Anne Dachel

Time to “normalize autism”………. the message is everywhere.

I’ve written a lot lately about Julia, the new character on Sesame Street who’s getting a lot of media attention because she has autism. She’s cute, friendly, and shows us the milder side of autism. Julia is part of a bigger issue here. It’s the push now to NORMALIZE AUTISM.

At the same time Robert Kennedy, Jr. is out warning us about the dangers of injecting mercury into babies and pregnant women, and the movie “Vaxxed” is crisscrossing the county educating viewers about the government’s cover-up of research findings of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, the mainstream media is telling us just the opposite. We’re supposed to believe that having a child on the autism spectrum is just something that happens. Doctors can’t explain why; it’s just the way some people are. If we can all just accept AUTISM as a fact of life, we could move on from the blame game and stop talking about vaccines.

No one is at all worried about the rate of autism. The numbers are meaningless. No one asks why autism isn’t an issue for middle aged and elderly people. We’ve given up on finding the cause, and we’re happy to leave autism as a mystery we have all the time in the world to figure out, happy that the link to vaccinations has been debunked.

April helps. We have a whole month once a year where we pretend to care about the disability with lots scenes of smiling autistic children interacting with speech therapists or climbing on playground equipment. We’ll hear about walks for autism awareness and all the famous places lit up in blue. You can't miss the idea of normalizing autism being talked about all over, all that's the whole idea behind the Julia character.

This first piece from Indiana is a perfect example of everything I’ve said here.

March 22, 2017, (Terre Haute) Indiana Statesman: “Sesame Street” character better late than never

By Zack Davis

The show has decided to add a new character named Julia, a four year-old girl who is on the autism spectrum. She has her quirks, like repeating things she just heard and not responding immediately. She notices things that many of us wouldn’t think about. They wanted to accurately portray a child with autism to help normalize the abnormality – something that should be done.

However, people have praised “Sesame Street” too much for this new addition. The issue isn’t that the character is badly portrayed or written; in fact, the writers worked with child psychologists and autism awareness groups to make sure the character accurately represented autistic children. The problem is that the reactions prove how abnormally we, as a whole, treat the disorder.

Autism has become relatively common in human populations in the past few decades, affecting more than twice as many children in 2012 than in 2000, according to the Center for Disease Control. So it isn’t recent news for anybody that autism exists.

Most of us have probably met someone with autism, so many of us should be used to it by now. However, we haven’t embraced it as such.

If we had embraced autism better, or even sooner, Julia wouldn’t be such a huge deal. Unfortunately, we, as a population, have let it get to the point that we need a kid’s show to normalize it and remove the stigma.

March 20, 2017, (Mechanicsburg, PA) PennLive: New Sesame Street character will have autism

By David Wenner

…The character will mark another milestone for show that has worked to teach children about subjects ranging from the alphabet to race to physical disabilities to death. The show chose to include a character with autism because of the realization that most young children will be around one or more children with autism. The goal is to normalize autism so children recognize and understand it when they encounter an affected child.

March 21, 2017, Los Angeles Times: Sesame Street to introduce Julia, a muppet with autism

By Yvonne Villarreal

…The creative team behind Sesame Street's newest addition worked with autism organisations to decide which characteristics Julia should have and how best to normalise autism for all children. Puppet designer Rollie Krewson told Stahl about the various details that went into creating the look of Julia, including a set of arms that can flap uncontrollably when Julia's overwhelmed.

March 20, 2017, MassLive: 'Sesame Street' introduces new muppet character 'Julia,' 4-year-old girl with autism

By Ellanje Ferguson

..The goal of both the initiative and Julia's character is to promote awareness and normalize Autism for children and adults. 

March 20, 2017, TIME: Sesame Street's New Muppet Has Autism, and 3 Other Times the Show Taught Kids about Diversity

By Katie Reilly

The addition of Julia is, in part, an effort to normalize the different ways children with the disorder interact with their peers. And the puppeteer behind Julia has a personal connection to the role because her son has autism.

March 20, 2017, PIX11 New York: Sesame Street’ to introduce Julia, new Muppet with autism

By Katherine Lam

The writers and organizations talked about which characteristics to give Julia that would best “normalize autism for all children.”

March 19, 2017, CBS News: Newest "Sesame Street" Muppet has autism: Meet Julia http://www.cbsnews.com/news/julia-sesame-street-new-muppet-autism/

By Leslie Stahl

“Sesame Street” has always based its characters and content on extensive research.  They regularly bring in educators and child psychologists. In the case of Julia, they also worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics she should have and how best to normalize autism for all children.  

March 20, 2017, Mom.Me: Big News for Julia, the 'Sesame Street' Muppet With Autism!  

By Angelica Lai

…During a time when the rate of autism diagnoses has multiplied, it is increasingly important to normalize autism.

It seems we’re moving on from appeals for just awareness and acceptance for autism. Today it’s all about normalizing autism. Considering the worldwide promotion that International Autism Awareness Day gets every April 2, I can see it happening. Say good bye to what we've always considered a normal child. They’re now a thing of the past.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.

Comments

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ASDjournalist

I think people are missing the point. Here is the takeaway from a 60 Minutes story last month on this subject from the puppeteer behind Julia:

"Stacey Gordon: Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK."

I don't think Sesame Street is by any means trying to make this "fashionable" in fact I teared up watching the 60 Minutes story.

Also she was based on a digital short, that lead into a live action storyarc, which explains possibly why she's a muppet like character instead.

(I'm autistic thank you very much.)

Alexandra

I remember reading about autism when I was a child (1970s-80s). At that time it was extremely rare and I was like, wow, that would be awful to have a child who was so unaware they'd do things like run out in traffic.

Fast-forward to today and I have a 15-year-old son on the spectrum. His father and I have done what we could (within our budget) to try to recover him. Cilantro and chlorella seemed to help, because when we started doing that when our son was 4, after two weeks of doing this he started trying to talk again. Recently I've discovered "Behavior Balance"--which is B6, B9 (folate), B12, and DMG--and I've noticed my son's speech improving more. He still has more or less of a monotone (unless he's mad at something) but his tone can seem more conversational.

And in the last week--I noticed him humming. He has NEVER done that before!

These jokers want to normalize autism so people will stop finding ways to recover kids, in my opinion. I think it's another way of hiding the vaccine/autism connection.

ATSC

I very much doubt that most parents would be here if we were raising a "bright-eyed and cheerful four-year old girl" who has good receptive language, communicates effectively, shows curiosity and sings and plays with other children. It seems that most of us deal with or have dealt with receptive and expressive language disorders, toileting problems, wandering, self-injury, aggression, and major, long-lasting tantrums. I think Sesame Street had far too much input from "autism awareness groups" and the mother of a high-functioning child.

Puppeteer behind Julia, Stacey Gordon, mom of a son with autism: "Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK."

Who are these "friends" she talks about? My son's classmates weren't frightened by him, he was deliberately tormented and frightened by them, and later bullied by them. Real children do not live in the controlled environment of Sesame Street and if Julia was real, she would soon discover that children hone in on the deficiencies and hypersensitivities of children with autism and delight in pushing their buttons. Fortunately for Julia, she'll still be four-years old in twenty to thirty years time, she won't be living with her aging parents or stuck in a group home.

Judging by the number of people who've signed this petition to the Whitehouse, it seems to me that autism has already been normalised:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/take-action-end-autism-epidemic-and-implement-comprehensive-reforms-vaccine-safety-policies

I believe it's called boiling the frog.

Jeanne J

Annie,
You are so right. The original Sesame Street (the one before HBO bought it out) had always been inclusive with having real children with real disabilities. But, that is not what this is about. It seems to be about being politically correct. So, rather than having a child with autism, whose disabilities might actually be on display during the show, indicating how not neurodiverse, but how very different/disabling they are, they would rather feature a pre-fab puppet, whose behaviors they can control and show "See, autism isn't really a problem, now is it".

annie

Why the puppet? Why not just have an actual human child with autism on the program? Hands flapping, doesn't respond to Big Bird. Children in wheelchairs and children with Down's syndrome have frequented Sesame Street often over the years. If children are to believe that the disability of autism is just a "normal" part of the human condition shouldn't it be portrayed by an actual human?

George stevens

The way the new sesame Street character is shown on this show is nothing but a slap in the face to none verbal autistic children everywhere. It's a joke.

angusfiles

They should introduce Julia to a fluorescent shopping Mall lights that used to be just fantastic! literally dragging him "sweeping the floor" as we went,him screaming at the top of his tonsils .

Wonder why we never write books about it or even make a film about it...the new norm I feel, sorry for them all.

Pharma for Prison

MMRRIP

Susan

Normal children are not "a thing of the past". In my neighborhood there are still lots of neurotypical children who somehow got through the vaccine schedule with their brains intact.

There's no way that brain damage from vaccines can be normalized. Big Pharma only wishes it could be so they could go on with this scam. More and more parents are waking up to reality, even parents of neurotypical children, they can see what vaccines have done to some of the children they know, in their family or their neighborhood, they've been told all about it. There are even people spreading the word via pamphlets that they leave in grocery stores. The word is getting out more and more, the JIG IS UP ! Remember that old commercial "I told two friends and they told two friends and they told two friends.." More and more people know there's a link between vaccines and autism. Maybe that's why Big Pharma is panicking and using communist tactics with Senator Pan.

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