Autism and Pop Culture

Not too many years ago, autism and all autism spectrum disorders were fairly taboo to speak of, especially on television shows and in movies geared toward children and teens.  Thankfully, in the past few years, prime time shows have begun to de-stigmatize autism by portraying main characters who has varying degrees of the disorder. Several shows including Parenthood, The Big Bang Theory and, most recently, Sesame Street have introduced characters who either have autism or have characteristics that highlight the disorder. For millions of viewers, parents, therapists and even those who have autism, this means that more and more people have begun to be more open, accepting and tolerant of differences.

The Big Bang Theory‘s main character Sheldon Cooper shows many signs of Aspergers Syndrome. For example, Sheldon plays a scientific genius who works at a local university and shows several characteristics typical to those who have Aspergers, such as extreme attention to detail, repetitive actions and a lack of social skills. Directors and producers claim he is not autistic but he does seem to portray many characteristics common in Aspergers. Regardless of whether Sheldon is meant to be “on the spectrum” in the show his character has brought the discussion to a national level. This awareness and openness will hopefully lead to understanding and tolerance. It may also help students who have ASD relate to a character they see on the screen.

Sesame Street has just introduced a new muppet, named Julia, a friend of Abby Cadabby and Elmo who is bullied as a result of being different. Even viewers this young  can learn that a child with differences is not worse or bad or somehow “less.” The goal of Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” initiative is to is to reduce the stigma associated with autism.The initiative also aims to educate kids as well as their parents on how to have successful interactions with kids on the spectrum.

To read more about the Sesame Street initiative follow this link to Autism Speaks.