Sunday, April 2, 2017

PBS KIDS: Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month and PBS KIDS will be airing some special shows featuring autistic characters in an effort to promote awareness, acceptance and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The highlight of these shows will be Sesame Street introducing a brand new Muppet character named Julia who has autism.  Autistic characters will also be featured in episodes of the animated series Arthur and Dinosaur Train.  PBS KIDS hopes that children with autism will find these characters relatable and these shows will help educate the broader public about this medical condition.  These will definitely be some valuable shows full of teachable moments.  Here is a listing of when each show will debut this month:

4/10  Sesame Street "Meet Julia"

When Big Bird doesn't understand why the new girl on the block won't talk to him the Sesame     Street gang explains to him that Julia may act differently than other kids but is special in her very own way.  Julia, a Muppet with autism, makes her debut in a television episode of Sesame Street.  Julia is performed by puppeteer Stacey Gordon, who uses her own experiences raising an autistic son to help make the actions of the character realistic.

Visit to read a free online storybook featuring Julia and to view some videos featuring the newest Muppet character. The website also includes an autism reference section that includes activity and discussion ideas plus informational tips.

4/10  Dinosaur Train “Junior Conductors Academy”

The kids are all excited! Why? Because they’re off to Junior Conductor’s Academy in Laramidia, to try to become Junior Conductors First Class. Buddy has a feeling he’s going to be a star in class, until he meets Dennis Deinocheirus – a kid who knows even more dinosaur facts than he does! Can Buddy get over his disappointment that he’s not the smartest kid in class, and make friends with Dennis (who seems like he’s having trouble making friends on his own)?

Click here for some Autism Awareness Month tips and resources courtesy of  Dinosaur Train.

Arthur is one of my family's favorite shows on PBS KIDS.  I enjoy watching this show with its subtle societal commentaries and humorous situations all most as much as my kids do.  Arthur is an entertaining and educational show providing kids with teachable moments that they may be learning from without even realizing it.  So it is no surprise that they've weighed in on the topic of autism.   There will be four autism-related episodes of Arthur being broadcast by PBS KIDS in April.

4/10   Arthur “When Carl Met George/D.W. Swims with the Fishes"

George is excited about spending time with his new friend, Carl, who seems to know all kind of cool facts about trains and about… well lots of things! Then George learns that Carl has Asperger's Syndrome - a form of autism that makes Carl see the world differently than most people. Can George and Carl remain good friends - and perhaps even learn from each other?  /  D.W. and James enter the pre-school swim meet and recruit their big siblings to coach them. All goes swimmingly until Arthur and Molly start taking their jobs a little too seriously. Who's this race about, anyway?

4/11  Arthur “Pets and Pests/Go Fly a Kite” 

There's a mouse loose in the Read home! And D.W. wants it gone…NOW! When traps fail, Arthur enlists the help of an expert mouse catcher…a fearless hunter who laughs in the face of danger: Nemo??  / While playing in the park, Binky, Muffy, and Ladonna stumble upon an abandoned kite. After failing to find the owner, the trio decides to take joint custody of the toy. But sharing it is easier said than done…

4/12  Arthur “Carl's Concerto/Too Much of a Good Thing”
Carl has agreed to play the accordion for George’s puppet show. But his routines are getting in the way of rehearsals. Now George must decide: keep Carl and risk the show, or replace Carl and risk his friendship? / Buster enlists Binky’s help to keep him from gorging on delicious Tuvaluna cookies. Will Buster’s self-control hold...or crumble?

4/13  Arthur “He Said, He Said/Bunny Trouble”
A special episode of Bionic Bunny is interrupted, and Arthur, Buster, and George try to remember what comes next. But Carl is the only one who can straighten out the story. / D.W. is excited to be taking care of the class bunny, Larry. But when Larry is feeling adventurous and wanders off, it’s up to Ladonna the “Bunny Whisperer” to help get him back.

These shows will be rebroadcast throughout the month after the initial airing listed above.  Check your with your PBS affiliate for more details regarding local programming schedules.

In addition to incorporating the topic of autism into PBS KIDS programming, the PBS Parents website has articles from doctors, disability experts and special education teachers on topics ranging from identifying autism to creating inclusive environments for autistic children.  Additionally, PBS Learning Media has great teacher resources and activities for children with autism that can be found here.

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