Dear Sesame Street,
You make us feel good. You have always made us feel good. As a child of the 60′s I have watched you lovingly embrace diversity openly. What a refreshing concept it was. Sweet, honest, educational, diversity- authentic entertainment for children. You were one of a kind then and after all of these years, you are still very much one of a kind now. You always seemed to get how to discuss diversity without condescension. I was 8 yrs. old when you arrived on my street with your urban celebration of the world and of life on it’s learning curve. Exposing us to the lives of other children around the world, full of color and difference! Numbers, letters, love and life’s lessons, what could be better? You always evoked good feelings, great vibrations. Truly nothing anyone would ever object to. So unlike much of the children’s programming that followed and much of the programming being created today.
So why are you hearing objections today? Objections that have to do with your decision to team with Autism Speaks?
Because apparently you have become complacent when it comes to your research. To write this letter I did my own research on the beginnings of your Children’s Television Workshop. 45 yrs. ago I was just happy to watch Sesame Street without questions. NOW, not so much. You were the first to extensively research your audience’s habits and to scientifically harness the “addictive qualities” of television viewing. You purposely set out to research your way into the homes, hearts and minds of families in this manner. You did that, quite successfully.
*From Wikipedia: Sesame Street was the first children’s television program that used a curriculum with clear and measurable outcomes, and was the first to use research in the creation of the show’s design and content.
So what happened? As a company that has succeeded greatly because of extreme research and focus groups, did you fail to research your newest partner, Autism Speaks? The way they characterize Autism to the world from their extensive media platform?
Did you research the fact that they
to the very people they claim to support? That thousands of Autistic adults hate the way Autism Speaks claims to speak for them. Without even knowing them…without even trying to know them? That Autism Speaks will not even publicly address Autistic people about their grievances?
It is so uncharacteristic of what we have come to expect on Sesame Street. Especially when it comes to something as important as neurodiversity.
As the mother to a beautifully diverse Autistic teenager and the friend to amazing Autistic people I beg you to DO YOUR RESEARCH. There are many wonderful Autistic people and organizations that will partner with you to get the correct educational materials out there in regards to Autism. After many years of hammering Autism over the head, depicting it as a tragic burden on the human race- don’t allow Autism Speaks to fool you. Using you and your amazing business model to legitimize their “new found” stance of acceptance. They must undo the stigmatic damage they have done to the people on the AutismHWY by themselves. Ask them to be true partners and to finally acknowledge and apologize to Autistic people. To do the only authentic thing. INCLUDE Autistic adults in their research and policy making.
Please do not assist Autism Speaks in spreading information about Autism that does not come from Autistic people themselves. We beg you to not work with a company that is known for excluding the Autistic voice that has so much to offer. We ask that you amplify the Autistic voice and stay true to your original plan of only including and highlighting authenticity on Sesame Street!