In honor of Autism Acceptance Month this April, two popular kids TV series — “Sesame Street” and “Fancy Nancy” — will air episodes featuring autistic characters.
On April 6, “Sesame Street” will air an episode dedicated to Julia, an autistic muppet the popular kids program added to its regular lineup in 2017. Julia was previously part of Sesame Workshop’s online initiative Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. She has since been spotted during the Macy’s Day parade wearing noise-cancelling headphones and starred in a series of PSAs encouraging early diagnosis for kids on the spectrum.
In the new episode featuring Julia, titled “The Fluffster Kerfuffle,” Rudy tries to use Julia’s Fluffster toy to play with other characters. However, Julia’s Fluffster is a tool she uses to stay calm, so it’s not something she likes to share. Many people on the spectrum use toys or fidgets to help regulate their emotional and sensory experiences. With the help of Alan, Julia explains the predicament and Rudy finds another way for the friends to play together.
“Fancy Nancy” is an animated TV series on Disney Junior. In its upcoming April 2 episode, the show will feature a character named Sean, who is autistic. During the episode, Nancy wants to make friends with Lionel’s cousin, Sean. Lionel and Sean help Nancy understand neurodiversity.
“Nancy gets confused when Sean doesn’t respond to her in the way she expects,” “Fancy Nancy” head writer, Krista Tucker told Deadline. “Lionel explains that Sean is autistic and this means his brain works differently than others.”
Sean was inspired by George Yionoulis, whose video about autism for his fourth-grade class went viral in 2017. Yionoulis voices the character of Sean in the episode.
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Both TV episodes provide much-needed representation for kids on the spectrum, which can cultivate a real-world understanding of neurodiversity among children. “Fancy Nancy” writer Tucker said they hope the episode featuring Sean does just that.
“We hope this episode will help our viewers understand that there are sensitivities to be mindful of when engaging with someone who has autism,” Tucker said, adding:
People with autism may act in ways we feel are different, and that’s okay— they’re just being who they are. In a world where so many children interact with kids who have autism, this kind of understanding creates compassion, tolerance and friendship. Most importantly, it creates a world that is kind and accepting of all of us.
Sean’s episode of “Fancy Nancy” will air April 2 at 8 a.m. ET on the Disney Channel, and Julia’s new episode of “Sesame Street” will air April 6 at 9 a.m. ET on HBO.