Sesame Street Greets Autistic Muppet

Sesame Street Greets Autistic Muppet

Through Julia, Sesame Street once again teaches that being different is okay.
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Beloved children’s television show Sesame Street has always been about learning new things and accepting people’s differences. On April 10th, Elmo, Big Bird, and Abby Cadabby will introduce the kids at home to a new friend, who’s different in a way they haven’t discussed before: Julia, a four-year-old autistic girl.

Julia first appeared in an online storybook in 2015, called We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3! In it, Elmo tells Abby, “Julia has autism, so she does things a little differently.” Over the course of the story, Abby sees the things Julia “does differently” – such as her lack of eye contact, how she is sometimes slow to respond, and the way she flaps her arms when she gets excited – and the three friends have fun playing together. Now, Abby is finally coming to the main television show, in Muppet form.

These days, American kids spend an average of 32 hours a week watching television, so a significant amount of what we see as “normal” is influenced by what we see on TV. And I don’t need to link statistics to tell you that kids (and adults) look at people who act in ways that are “not normal” and label them as “weird” at the least or bully and ostracize them at the worst.

Sesame Street acknowledges that there are many kinds of normal and champions people’s differences. For example, Elmo and Whoopi Goldberg once discussed how much they each liked their fur or skin and hair, respectively. In a more recent episode, the show discussed how people have different accents based on the language they speak and where they are from with a scene in which some rude kids make fun of Rosita's voice. The cast of Sesame Street teaches that there are many different ways to look and act, and with Julia it’s the same message.

In a YouTube video, Elmo wants to play with Julia, but she doesn’t engage with him. Instead of assuming that this means Julia doesn’t like him, Elmo is unbothered and suggests that they play “side-by-side” instead because there are “lots of ways friends can play” – and they do so, until Julia is ready to play together. In doing so, Elmo demonstrates acceptance towards a different way of behaving. Julia does not interact with people in the same way that Elmo does, and that’s okay. In clips from the upcoming episode in which Julia is officially introduced to the Sesame Street show, revealed in an episode of 60 Minutes, Elmo and the others acknowledge and accept the other ways that Julia is different. When they play tag together and she jumps around instead of running, nobody tells her that she’s playing the game wrong; instead, they decide that it looks like fun and turn it into a new game. When loud police sirens upset Julia, her friends usher her inside and away from the noise and then patiently wait for her to be ready to play again. Nobody dismisses her as unfriendly, difficult, or “weird.” Julia’s autism is accepted as a part of her, and the ways that she is “different” are treated in the show as her kind of “normal.”

I have no doubt that after watching Elmo and the others treat Julia with love and respect, kids in the real world will do the same when they come across someone who communicates and plays in a different way – and I hope that other television shows add autism to what they show as “normal,” too.

Cover Image Credit: ABC News

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Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are

The arts are important, too.
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When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated.

For those of you who don't know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it.

For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

Much like athletic hobbies, an actor must try-out, or audition, to participate in a musical. Those best suited for each role will be cast, and those who would not fit well are not given a part. While this may sound similar to trying out for say, basketball, it is an apples to oranges comparison.

At a basketball try-out, those who have the most experience doing a lay-up or shooting a foul shot will be more likely to succeed, no questions asked. However, for an audition, it is common to have to learn a piece of choreography upon walking in, and a potential cast member will be required to sing a selected piece with only a few days of preparation.

There are many more variables involved with an audition that makes it that much more nerve-racking.

The cast of a school musical will often rehearse for several months to perfect their roles, with only several nights of performance at the end. Many sports practice for three or four days between each of their respective competitions. While this may seem to make sports more grueling, this is not always the case.

Musicals have very little pay-off for a large amount of effort, while athletic activities have more frequent displays of their efforts.

Athletes are not encouraged to but are allowed to make mistakes. This is simply not allowed for someone in a musical, because certain lines or entrances may be integral to the plot.

Sometimes, because of all the quick changes and the sweat from big dance numbers, the stage makeup just starts to smear. Despite this, an actor must smile through it all. This is the part of musicals that no sport has: introspection.

An actor must think about how he or she would respond in a given situation, be it saddening, maddening, frightening, or delightful. There is no sport that requires the knowledge of human emotion, and there is especially no sport that requires an athlete to mimic such emotion. This type of emotional exercise helps with communications and relationships.

Sports are great, don't get me wrong. I loved playing volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming, but there were no experiences quite like those from a musical. Sports challenge the body with slight amounts of tactic, while musicals require much physical and mental endurance.

The next time you hear someone say that it's “just a musical," just remember that musicals deserve as much respect as sports, since they are just as, if not more demanding.

Cover Image Credit: Cincinnati Arts

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10 Shows To Watch If You're Sick Of 'The Office'

You can only watch it so many times...

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"The Office" is a great show, and is super easy to binge watch over and over again! But if you're like me and you're looking for something new to binge, why not give some of these a try? These comedies (or unintentional comedies) are a great way to branch out and watch something new.

1. "New Girl"

A show about a group of friends living in an apartment in a big city? Sound familiar? But seriously, this show is original and fresh, and Nick Miller is an icon.

2. "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

Ya'll have been sleeping on this show. It's a musical comedy about a girl that follows her ex boyfriend across the country. I thought it sounded horrible so I put it off for WAY too long, but then I realized how incredible the cast, music, writing, and just EVERYTHING. It really brings important issues to light, and I can't say too much without spoiling it. Rachel Bloom (the creator of the show) is a woman ahead of her time.

3. "Jane the Virgin"

I know... another CW show. But both are so incredible! Jane The Virgin is a tongue-in-cheek comedy and parody of telenovelas. It has so many twists and turns, but somehow you find yourself laughing with the family.

4. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been in popular news lately since its cancellation by Fox and sequential pickup by NBC. It's an amazing show about cops in, you guessed it, Brooklyn. Created by the amazing Michael Schur, it's a safe bet that if you loved "The Office" you'll also love his series "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".

5. "The Good Place"

Another series created by the talented Micael Schur, it's safe to say you've probably already heard about this fantasy-comedy series. With a wonderful cast and writing that will keep you on your toes, the show is another safe bet.

6. "Fresh Off The Boat"

Seriously, I don't know why more people don't watch this show. "Fresh Off The Boat" focuses on an Asian family living in Orlando in the mid 90s. Randall Parks plays a character who is the polar opposite of his character in "The Interview" (Yeah, remember that horrifying movie?) and Constance Wu is wonderful as always.

7. "Full House"

Why not go back to the basics? If you're looking for a nostalgic comedy, go back all the way to the early days of Full House. If you're a '98-'00 baby like me, you probably grew up watching the Tanner family on Nick at Night. The entire series is available on Hulu, so if all else fails just watch Uncle Jesse and Rebecca fall in love again or Michelle fall off a horse and somehow lose her memory.

8. "Secret Life of the American Teenager"

Okay, this show is not a comedy, but I have never laughed so hard in my life. It's off Netflix but it's still on Hulu, so you can watch this masterpiece there. Watch the terrible acting and nonsense plot twists drive this show into the ground. Somehow everyone in this school dates each other? And also has a baby? You just have to watch. It might be my favorite show of all time.

9. "Scrubs"

Another old show that is worth watching. If you ignore the last season, Scrubs is a worthwhile medical comedy about doctors in both their personal and medical life. JD and Turk's relationship is one to be jealous of, and one hilarious to watch. Emotional at times, this medical drama is superior to any medical drama that's out now.

10. "Superstore"

I was resistant to watch this one at first, because it looked cheesy. But once I started watching I loved it! The show is a workplace comedy, one you're sure to love if you can relate to working in retail. If you liked the Office, you'll like Superstore!

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