NOTE: 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.
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.
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.