Sesame Street helps children with autism to become more comfortable wearing masks
The changes of 2020 – from wearing masks to interacting via video chat – have been complex for everyone. For those who thrive on routine and consistency, as is common for children on the autism spectrum, the challenges have been even greater.
To help address one common issue, the Sesame Workshop is launching brand new videos and resources featuring Julia, a four-year-old Sesame Street Muppet with autism, to help autistic children and their families cope with some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resources, available for free in English on SesameStreet.org/autism are designed to help families adapt and create routines, build flexibility, and cope with the challenges of living in the time of COVID-19, like having to wear masks and learning to understand physical distancing.
The resources released include:
– New Virtual Playdate Videos with Julia, including a playdate with Elmo where the friends learn how to adapt an activity they usually do in person, and a video call with Julia’s dad Daniel where they practice wearing their masks, an experience rarely addressed from a child’s perspective.
– A Park Problem, an animation featuring Julia and her family out at the park for the first time in a long time. So many things are the same, but some things are different and take getting used to.
– “No Matter What,” a digital storybook teaching children that even when the world around us looks and feels different, some things stay the same no matter what—like the love within a Family.
– New articles and routine stories, including strategies for parents and caregivers to help children cope with—and even embrace—changes in routines.
The new resources, Sesame Workshop’s Dr. Jeanette Betancourt said, are designed to help families manage unexpected circumstances, familiarise children with important new behaviours like wearing masks, and incorporate practical strategies into their day-to-day lives—all with a little help from Julia.
In March, soon after the pandemic began, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organisation behind Sesame Street, launched the Caring for Each Other initiative to meet the needs of families as the situation evolves, with free resources designed to help parents provide comfort and manage anxiety, as well as help with creating routines and fostering playful learning at home.
The new resources add to existing resources released in April for autistic children and their families with language and strategies for providing comfort, creating routines, and staying healthy as a family during the pandemic.
The Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative was created in 2015, and aims to increase public awareness and acceptance of autism, foster greater empathy and understanding, and support families with free, bilingual resources. The initiative was developed in consultation with over 250 organisations and experts within the autism community.
For more information, please visit www.sesameworkshop.org.