Editor’s Note: This cross-post was written by Deek and originally featured on Grounded Parents. If you thought anti-vaxxers couldn’t get worse before now, you are wrong.
I guess it was bound to happen. Sesame Street introduces a new character who has autism as part of a larger campaign, and anti-vaccine advocates are up in arms. But, unsurprisingly, when you look at the specific issues they have, there’s just not much there.
Sesame Street is normalizing Autism! Heck yeah it is! And it should. The world has changed significantly since when children diagnosed with any neurological condition were separated from their peers in school. My son, for example attends a preschool in which he is the only non-neurotypical kid there. He is completely mainstreamed with minimal support, and ideally will continue when he enters public school.
Anything that makes it so that children learn from the start to treat those who process information differently with respect and an open mind is good, and frankly benefits other children without a diagnosis who may need an extra moment, may dislike excessive noise, or may prefer other minor changes in conversation and teaching that benefit children with autism.
The Muppet is a Girl; Autistics are Boys! Sure, there are more males diagnosed with autism than females, but there are two reasons Sesame Street was smart to make this muppet female:
- Because more boys are diagnosed than girls. If anyone is less likely to see themselves represented on tv or movies, it’s girls diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. A female muppet named Julia gives an often overlooked demographic a chance to be see themselves on screen just like everyone else.
- Sesame Street has a serious glut of male muppets. There are over 1,500 Sesame Street characters if you include every puppet possible, but of the twelve central characters on the Sesame Street games website, ten are male. The last thing the Street needs is another boy neighbor.
The Muppet isn’t Autistic Enough! As is repeatedly pointed out, Julia can talk, and apparently that doesn’t make her autism serious enough to be representative of ASD. First of all, this is like saying that showing a blind character or a child in a wheelchair isn’t inclusive of people with physical disabilities because some children are deaf or use other assistive devices.