Austrian physician Hans Asperger, known for his early studies on autism, once said, “Not everything that steps out of line, and thus ‘abnormal,’ must necessarily be ‘inferior.'” Hans Asperger was far ahead of his day, and even ahead of today.
The majority of today’s society has yet to adopt his ideals regarding autism. However, we are ever-so-slowly coming around, and this is becoming apparent even in children’s television. Even television writers are trying to curb the bullying and abuse commonly faced by autistic children, and perhaps the most obvious (but not the only) solution is to teach neurotypical children about what autism really is, and to preach tolerance and acceptance. At the same time, it is important for autistic children to understand themselves, and to learn that they are fine the way they are, in lieu of instilling a sense of inferiority and shame. Near the end of the year 2015, Sesame Street introduced its first autistic character, Julia.
She appears in this book titled “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3.”
It doesn’t represent all autistic children, but it’s impossible to do so with just one character, and it’s a step in the right direction. This character is not stigmatizingly innacurate, like many other autistic characters portrayed in the media.
Along with the character Julia, Sesame Street released a song about how all children are “amazing.” Hearing this, I really wish that this existed when I was a child growing up and watching Sesame Street.
However, Sesame Street is not the only children’s television show to portray autism in recent years.
Arthur is a kid’ cartoon about a group of anthropomorphic animal children attending school and living lives with their animal parents similar to how human children live. In 2010, Arthur introduced Carl, a rabbit with Asperger’s Syndrome.
He first appears in the episide “When Carl Met George.” In it, George, a moose, explains how he first met his friend Carl. At first, George finds Carl to be strange, and Carl’s mother reveals that he has Asperger’s Syndrome. George seeks advice to understand Asperger’s Syndrome, and after hearing about it, understands Carl a little more. From here, they become good friends.
A clip from this episode explains Asperger’s Syndrome in a perfect, flawless manner that child viewers can understand:
Thanks to educational efforts (some in part by the media) the flower of autism acceptance is finally blooming.