PBS Kids Marks Autism Awareness Month With Characters On The Spectrum

With help from "Sesame Street," "Dinosaur Train" and "Arthur."

April marks Autism Awareness Month, and PBS Kids is doing its part to raise awareness by showing episodes featuring characters on the spectrum.

Beginning with a Muppet’s TV debut on Monday, PBS Kids will air episodes of “Sesame Street,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Arthur” that help kids learn about autism.

Julia, a Muppet on “Sesame Street” with autism, kicked off the week in a new episode in which Big Bird meets Julia and learns about the disorder. In a video of the episode posted on YouTube, Abby Cadabby gives a simple yet important explanation about what it means to have autism.

“She does things just a little bit differently, in a Julia sort of way,” she tells Big Bird.

Learn more about Julia in the video from “Sesame Street” below.

This week, PBS Kids will also air an old two-part episode of “Dinosaur Train” titled “Junior Conductors Academy.” According to PBS’ site, the story features Dennis Deinocheirus, a dinosaur who knows a lot about other dinosaurs, but has difficulty making friends. April will include old episodes of “Arthur” on PBS Kids that feature Carl, a character who has Asperger’s syndrome, as well.

Learn more about Dennis and Carl in the videos from PBS Kids below.

In an interview with The Mighty, Linda Simensky, PBS’ vice president of children’s programming, stressed the importance of diversity as well as kids with autism being able to see characters like themselves on TV.

“We feel that including special needs and disabilities into that definition of diversity is vital, and we want to set an example for kids so that they are comfortable interacting and communicating with those who may be a little different from them,” she said.

Stacey Gordon, the puppeteer behind Julia on “Sesame Street” who also has a child with autism, echoed Simensky’s thoughts. In March, she explained to CBS the impact of having a character with autism visible on the screen.

“As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the ‘Sesame Street’ age,” she said.

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