“How come Garrett does not want to talk to me?” Grover, the blue-haired Muppet, asks Garrett’s big sister, Angelina. The 4-year-old Garrett and his twin AJ have autism and are more interested in their snacks and Lego bricks than in joining a discussion with the shaggy Muppet and their sister. Later, their mom explains that Garrett is paying attention in his own way, even though he is nonverbal. Their family, the mom says, is just like other families: “We have our challenges, but we have a lot of fun as a family together.”
This video, “Family Time with Grover,” is one of nine that were released online last week as part of the latest Sesame Street initiative—Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. The web-based project includes an interactive storybook that introduces the program’s first autistic Muppet, Julia, as part of an effort to teach kids about their friends with the condition. In addition, the website provides digital cue cards for parents to teach their autistic children basic skills, like brushing teeth and washing hands. At this time, the materials are only available on the Internet, not TV.
Leveraging the expertise of the Sesame Street Workshop, this initiative could amount to a novel and game-changing educational tool aimed at demystifying autism for preschool children. The videos, books, and other resources present children with the disorder as those who may have challenges but go to school, play, and love their families, just like other kids. The goal is to reduce the stigma associated with this disability by promoting greater understanding and empathy for autistic children and their families.