Appreciating Autism with Julia

Appreciating Autism with Julia

Julia, the new Muppet with autism autistic on Sesame Street autism awareness appreciation

Sesame Street in October 2015 introduced Julia, a Muppet with autism in one of their storybooks. On Monday, April 10, Julia mad her screen debut!

 

Sunny days have become sunnier at Sesame Street with a new kid on the block, a vivacious girl with bright red hair and large, expressive green eyes. Meet Julia. And she happens to have autism. Announced October 2015Julia made her debut on the beloved children’s show Monday, April 10, as part of Autism Awareness Month. In a video to introduce the character, Julia’s friend Abby Cadabby explains, “lots of kids have autism.” And “that means their brains just work a little differently,” she continues.  As the Amazing Song proclaims, this effort by Sesame Street is to promote not just autism awareness, but autism acceptance and appreciation.

(CBS News made the announcement on Sunday, April 2; the following day, Julia was introduced in Congress.  Incidentally, Power Rangers introduced Billy, a blue character with autism.)

 

A Basis on Research and Experience

Noteworthy is that the people who create and enact the show themselves have experience with autism. Frank Campagna, the writer of the respected blog “Autism Daddy” is one of the video producers at Children’s Television Workshop. In his blog, he discusses how, after the birth of his severely autistic son, he sought to bring awareness and acceptance of the condition on the show.  And bringing Julia to life is puppeteer Stacey Gordon, an advocate and a parent of a boy with autism.

A researcher at Virginia Tech, herself a mom of a boy with autism, praises the way Julia doesn’t just talk about autism, but shows her young audience how autism is another way of thinking and being, providing the tools for them to interact with their autistic peers.

 

Resources for Parents

“Sesame Street and Autism” offers a variety of resources for parents, including the following:  Storybook image of Julia, a Sesame Street Muppet with autism

 

Sunny Day
Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet

Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street

Come and play
Everything’s A-OK
Friendly neighbors there
That’s where we meet….

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Revisited: What Do We Tell the Children – and Immigrants (as Well as Refugees)

Playful boy in the expansive courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, Syria

Photo by James Gordon, Los Angeles, California, USA: “Playful boy in the expansive courtyard of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, Syria” Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. This mosque, the fourth holiest place in Islam, is now in ruins.

It’s time to revisit two themes: “What do we tell the children?” and “What do we teach the children?”  In other words, v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha, “Love your neighbor (or stranger) as yourself.”
vahavta-lreacha-kamocha
On Saturday, January 27, Trump issued his now-famous executive order banning residents of seven designated predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. Noteworthy is the fact that the order contains the phrase “foreign terrorist” but not “refugees.” Among these foreign terrorists detained was a four-month-old infant in need of open-heart surgery, and a one-year-old with cancer. In fact, world wide, children, already among the most vulnerable, are suffering in disproportionate numbers.
What do we mean by “extreme vetting”? A Homeland Security official explains that refugees have been been vetted thoroughly all along.

Teaching and Supporting the Children

Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers a comprehensive guide for educators and school support staff in dealing with the many complex issues of immigrants and refugees. Says the report,
“Schools should be safe havens that embrace all students and families, regardless of citizenship and national origin, and that includes unaccompanied and refugee children. The 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe ruled that undocumented children have a constitutional right to receive a free public K–12 education, which provides the means to becoming a “self-reliant and self-sufficient participant in society,” the court wrote, and instills the “fundamental values necessary to the maintenance of a democratic political system.” However, today’s increased enforcement measures by the Department of Homeland Security and campaign promises made by the incoming administration threaten that right for thousands of undocumented youth and the 4.1 million U.S.-born children who live in mixed-status households with at least one parent or family member who is undocumented.”
The report offers facts about undocumented students, immigration raids, what school communities can do, and taking action beyond the classroom.
A companion piece, “What Do I Say to Students about Immigration Orders?” offers clear, honest tips for helping undocumented students and children of undocumented parents. This thoughtful essay offers ten additional steps of constructive action teachers and other adult role models can take.

Out Beyond the School

 On Wednesday, February 1, Trump cut a call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull short, refusing to honor America’s earlier pledge to take in 1,200 refugees. These are the refugees who had been relocated to the Papua New Guinea island of Nauru. The refugees consist mainly of families, many children among them. Witnesses – both the children themselves and the human rights group Amnesty International – describe the conditions there as inhumane.
Meanwhile, Samantha Bee had to put aside her humor in her scathing segment that night. Then, again, so was Trevor Noah, using the same c-bomb.

Forces of Good(ness) in the Twitterverse

 Bana Alabed, thankfully safe, had a poignant question for the president, seeking his empathy. Bana is the brave little Syrian girl who has been using Twitter to alert the world of the plight of these children, now political pawns subject to the political whims of egomaniac adults.
bana-02
The video can be found here. Please follow her! Bana’s mother, Fatemah, has also set up a Twitter account. Mother and daughter preach love, peace, and understanding. These are the message we need so much more of.

After the Super Bowl

Here’s the full, uncut version of the famous advertisement by 84 Lumber. It’s beautiful!

The Election: Children Now… and Beyond 2016

Day after day, day and night, pundits (some of the actually in the know) emit a steady stream of commentary, analysis, and a heaping dose of allegations and insinuations, one candidate in particular garnering disproportionate attention.  With all we have seen and heard about the 2016 election, has anyone asked how this very unfunny circus show is affecting children?  Well, at least one group has, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which recently released a survey, The Trump Effect: The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation’s schools, also available online.

SPLC Trump Effect

The report is the result of a week-long survey, in which nearly 2,000 people submitted more than 5,000 comments.  SPLC admits that, with its non-random sample, the survey cannot be entirely scientific; the responders all have signed up to receive newsletters and e-mail updates.

Though students have been “…increasingly political (which is good), …the extreme rhetoric being modeled is not helping their ability to utilize reason and evidence, rather than replying in kind.”  Furthermore, many students “…see the candidates as jokes and are offended and dismayed for the future.”   Even more disturbing are the deeper and long-term consequence, namely that more than two-thirds of teachers reported that many of their Muslim and immigrant students have expressed stark fear about what will happen to them and their families.  Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the schools of more than one-third the respondents, in many cases involving students being at the receiving end of bullying, with all that involves, from crying in class to sleepless nights to sharp declines in feelings of self-worth and even suicidal thoughts.

There is no doubt that the current toxic political environment is having a deleterious effect on our children.  Somehow, beyond this valuable report, this topic has not made headlines, somehow deemed less of concern, less worthy than juvenile comments about genitalia, which are anything but child’s play.

A Veteran Teacher Talks About Being a Champion for Every Child

Rita Pierson talks of teacher advocate advocacy child welfare

Rita Pierson gave a powerful TED talk on why every child needs a champion.

Rita Pierson, a veteran of 40 years, recently gave an impassioned talk about the need for teachers to make a connection with every student, that “every child deserves a champion.”  Even small gestures such as marking a failing paper with “+2” rather than “-18” can have a huge impact on how a student views himself.

Here is Rita Pierson’s TED Talk.

The Janusz Korczak Association Will Hold Its 4th Meeting via Conference Call, Monday, September 16, 2013, from 7:00 to 8:30 Eastern Time

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 INVITATION

The Janusz Korczak Association of the USA will have its next meeting on Monday, September 16th from 7pm – 8:30-pm EST (New York time) via conference call. Please call 888-998-2663 and use participant code – 3131820#.

If you are planning to attend the call, please let Mariola Strahlberg know by sending email to shiningmtnny@aol.com.  Please include items of interest to you so that I can include them in the agenda.

Tentative agenda for the call:

  • Report from the trip to Korczakowo, Poland and CATS Conference, Switzerland
  • Korczak’s presentations
  • Korczak’s exhibits
  • Timmy the Great play in NYC
  • Update about Korczak’s Facebook page
  • Update on the Five Star Program©
  • Kurt Bomze’s proposal for 2 projects and letter about Syrian Children.

If you have articles or any other information for our 1st newsletter, please send them to me by September 15th. We have few people who are not able to receive emails and we would like to communicate with them via our newsletter.

If this is your first meeting, please send the following information:

  • Name:
  • Organization:
  • Interest:
  • Phone number:
  • Email address:
  • A paragraph about who you are.

If you have friends who may be interested to join us, don’t hesitate to share this invitation with them. The purpose of our meetings is to create a core group of people who are interested in carrying Korczak’s legacy in the USA.  We all have a desire to do something with the information we have. By creating a working group, we find support, creative ideas and energy to move the work forward.

For the Janusz Korczak Association of the USA.

Mariola Strahlberg

www.shiningmtnforkids.com

845-425-7243