Sesame Workshop and Exceptional Minds Launch New Resources for Children With Autism and Their Families

By Jazz Tangcay
This article originally published in Variety

Sesame Workshop has expanded its Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative with new resources featuring Julia, a 4-year-old Sesame Street Muppet with autism.

Through its continued partnership with Exceptional Minds, the Burbank-based academy and studio specializing in preparing young adults on the autism spectrum for careers in animation and beyond, Sesame Workshop is launching a new animated video featuring Julia as she learns how to handle her fear of the dark by drawing what she’s afraid of — helping her brother along the way. This video was written, produced, and animated by Exceptional Minds’ team of artists on the autism spectrum. Accompanying the animations are new printables and coloring and activity sheets, including Good Night routine cards to help children develop a healthy bedtime routine.

“Autistic children and their families are facing unprecedented challenges this year, and Sesame Workshop is here to help kids create healthy routines, develop self-regulation and calming strategies, and build resilience,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of US Social Impact at Sesame Workshop. “We know the importance of collaborating with the autistic community as well as their families when creating new materials, which is why we teamed up with Exceptional Minds and Friends of Children with Special Needs to launch these new resources today.”

Created in 2015, the Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative aims to increase public awareness of autism, foster greater empathy and understanding, and support families with free resources to help them navigate everyday moments and challenges. Sesame Workshop has partnered with Exceptional Minds since 2015, starting with Emmy-nominated Benny’s story.

“The Exceptional Minds team of artists on the spectrum continue to showcase their writing, producing, and animation talents on our latest Sesame Workshop short, Backyard Camping. This project amplifies the workplace skills of our amazing artists while shining a light on autism inclusion. Eighty percent of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed, but with Sesame Workshop’s continued partnership, we are changing that,” said David Siegel, Executive Director of Exceptional Minds.

Anna Wang, Co-founder and Vice President, FCSN said, “Children with autism need to be understood and embraced by communities around the world. Friends of Children with Special Needs (FCSN) is honored to partner with Sesame to translate this important book about Julia, a child with autism, into Chinese languages.” Wang hopes the initiative will endeavor to remove the cultural stigma associated with autistic children within the Chinese community.

Adam Schuering, who was an animator and a main writer on the short, and previously worked on “Sesame Street” through the initiative said, “I felt confident that we could pull off another story about autistic children with the respect and authenticity it needed. Being involved in this project was especially gratifying for me since I helped write it in addition to animating scenes for it. The story we wrote encourages parents to look for coping strategies that are unique to their child.”

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