A Is for Autism

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street? I have a few words for them.

Sesame Street recently created a website designed to teach families about autism. The website features videos of autistic children receiving help from adults, an online storybook about a girl with autism, and a music video telling kids it’s okay to be different.

I found the videos of parents helping children to be informative and heartwarming. Autism wasn’t placed in a negative light and helpful advice was offered.

The only issue I had was with two fictional characters made by Sesame Street to embody autism. One was a boy named Benny and the other a girl named Julia.

For someone like me who is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome it’s understandable I would have high standards for fictional portrayals of autism. Watching Sesame Street’s autistic characters in action was hard to accept. I suggest checking them out for yourself to get an idea of what I mean.

I understand Sesame Street is trying to provide a way for autism to be recognizable for the purpose of creating open discussion. My fear is that people seeing these characters will assume every autistic person behaves the same way.

A fictional character meant to typify an entire group of people can never be more than a generalization. Making up a mascot for autism requires cherry-picking the characteristics most commonly associated with the diagnosis.

How would you describe the typical autistic person to those unfamiliar with it? Should you assume I shy away from large groups of people and have trouble expressing myself because I’m on the autism spectrum?

A woman recently asked me if having Asperger syndrome means I’m always honest. I told her that was a lie.

Misconceptions about autism will persist if people rely on generalizations for knowledge rather than doing their own research. My hope is that each person with autism will be shown respect as an individual and not be relegated to a generalized group.

This blog post is brought to you by the letter B and by the number 1.

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