A New Character With Autism On Sesame Street

Last month, a new character with autism was introduced on the show Sesame Street, which created a positive reaction from individuals around the world. Julia, the newest character of the show, has autism and acts in a stereotypical manner of many peers in the classroom.

sesame street, inclusion, tv and disabilities

For example, Julia is seen flapping her hands, repeating words, and not responding to a greeting by Big Bird. Alan, the narrator, explains that Julia is not trying to ignore Big Bird, but instead responds to people differently than Big Bird himself. He says, “She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way.” It may take her a bit longer to respond, but it’s okay.

Sesame street does a great job explaining some of the behaviors Julia demonstrates and does an even better job at explaining an appropriate way others can respond to such behaviors. For example, Julia is sensitive to loud noises. She repeats things that were just said by her friends and avoids eye contact. Although she acts differently than her peers, Julia fits right in and is part of the show. An example showing Julia and Elmo playing or Julia and Abby playing can bring tears to an eye of an educator or parent who is constantly striving to create this type of peer interaction and play environment.

Julia’s arrival of the show comes at a unique time in history. As society is progressively becoming more understanding and tolerant of differences, Julia’s presence on the show showcases how an inclusion setting can operate within the boundaries of love, patience, and understanding. It also teaches children at an early age to accept individuals who behave differently within the classroom environment and community.

I applaud Sesame street for including Julia in their show and for accurately depicting some common social situations that can occur in a life of a child with autism.


The History of Autism (A Summary)

Autism was official discovered 60 years ago. Although still puzzling to many, professionals are learning more about autism everyday.

Some facts:

  • Early accounts of individuals with autism are unclear
  • The concept and definition of autism has greatly changed over the years
  • Socio-political views as well as treatment available has evolved and continues to grow
  • Symptoms may have been confused with schizophrenia in the past


  • 1960s-Michael Rutter’s comparative study comparing the features of autism
  • 1960s-1970s: Kolvin distinguished autism from schizophrenia
  • 1970-Hermelin and O’Connor explored the “savant”
  • 1971- first association of autism as a specific medical condition (Stella Chess was the first to discover that autism can be associated with a neurological disease)
  • 1975- US Developmental Disability Act included individuals with autism
  • 1981- Lorna Wing’s seminal paper discusses Asperger’s Syndrome
  • 2000-Gillberg added to the knowledge of epidemiology, genetics, and clinical management

Early Accounts/History Records:

  • Book: Autism in History by Rob Houston (discusses the legal case of Uta Frith’s analysis of Hugh Blair in 1747)
  • The story of Victor “the wild boy of Aveyron”  in 1798 with Jean Itard
  • Paper: Observations on Madness and Melancholy chapter entitled “Cases on insane children” by John Haslam (discusses a boy with characteristics of autism published in 1809)
  • Book: The Pathology of the Mind chapter entitled “The insanity of early life” by Henry Maudsley (discusses a 13 year boy who shares similar characteristics of an individuals with Aspergers in 1879)
  • Ssucharewa’s account of six children in Germany during 1926
  • Hans Aspergers’s account of four children in 1949
  • Lorna Wing’s seminal paper in 1981

Outdated Ideas/Theories

  • Autism is caused by bad parenting
  • Autism is among the group of schizophrenia (we now know that autism is a developmental disorder rather than a psychosis)
  • Autism is secondary to language disorders

Interesting Facts:

  • Over 50% of children with autism are taking drugs/vitamins in the US (not the case in the UK)


  • The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (started in 1971 by Kanner and Chess)
  • Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities (started in 1985)
  • The International Autism Research Review (started in 1987)
  • International Journal of Research and Practice (started in 1997)
  • Good Autism Practice (started in 2001)

Current Books to Read:

  • “Pretending to be Normal” by Liane Willey
  • “Growing up Severely Autistic” by Kate Rankins
  • “An Inside View Of Autism” by Temple Grandin
  • “Freaks, Geeks, and Aspergers Syndrome” by Luke Jackson


Wolff, S. (2004). The history of autism. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 13(4), 201-8. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy.bsu.edu/10.1007/s00787-004-0363-5

Introducing the First Nonverbal, Autistic Talk Show Host

The world has been watching Carly Fleischmann, and her viewers have just increased by becoming the first nonverbal, autistic talk show host. Carly speaks through her I-pad and communicates with others with the help of technology. After many hours spent with her therapists and supportive family growing up, Carly has found a way to communicate with the world.

Her first interview —with the famous Channing Tatum —-gave viewers a good laugh as she asked questions that could make some feel uncomfortable. Her sense of humor, love, and youthful energy comes alive through the interview. I am excited to see the other guests she invites to her show in the future.

For now, be sure to watch Speechless –the newest talk show featuring the one and only –Carly Fleischmann!


First Interview: Channing Tatum 

Building Social Skills

“If school is to help student learn to develop into adults who can work collaboratively, contribute to society, problem solve, live independently, and develop meaningful relations, we must continue to explore how to infuse the teaching of social thinking and related skills into the curriculum, both within academic lessons and within the social curriculum.”

-Learners on the Autism Spectrum by Kari Buron and Pamela Wolfberg


orphans, children in Africa

Autism Videos: Behavior and Symptoms

I am excited to announce that I have started my masters in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in Autism with Ball State University this past August. I expect to be sharing my findings throughout these next two years of course work and field experience.

Below are a list of six videos that show different variations and symptoms of autism. The videos feature individuals in different age groups showing various behaviors that are generally associated with ASD. I would like to credit Ball State University for the majority of the video recommendations shared below. I believe the selection serves as a quick overview of stereotypical behaviors found in individuals with autism at varying ages. After reviewing the DSM-5, one could observe many behaviors mentioned for a consistent consensus of a diagnosis of autism.

1. Early Signs of Autism

Behavior Observed: Hand flapping, walking/spinning in circles, repetitive behavior, ability to smile, does not always respond to name being called, does not make extended eye contact with video lens, short scream to communicate

2. Birthday Party

Behavior Observed: Repetitive movements, isolation, sensitivity to sensory

3. Autism Stimming in Car

Behavior Observed: stimming, repetitive movements, screaming, clapping, rubbing of hands

4. Severe Autism Meltdown. Mother Attempts to Restrain Autistic Daughter from Self-Injury.

Behavior Observed: screaming, hitting, grabbing, stomping, crying, pulling, spinning, singing, self-injury

Experience Autism through Video

Ever wonder what it is like to feel over-stimulated? Carly Fleischmann shows through video what it is like to experience sensory overload in everyday settings.

Video 1: Coffee shop

Video 2: Walking down the street 

3. Video 3: Shopping at a store

Carly Fleischmann created these videos through her own experience. As we know, every individual sees the world through a different lens, which can lead to a different experience than those shown above. The reason I still appreciate these videos are that they highlight important characteristics that are common with those who experience sensory overload:

1. Increased brightness

2. Jumbled noise

3. Sensitivity to certain smells

4. Distracted by individual objects that become the complete focus of the individual 

Autism Spectrum Disorder: The Basics

Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are general terms used to describe a spectrum of developmental disorders characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. Although no two people with autism function exactly alike, common characteristics such as: difficulties in motor coordination, sensitivity to touch, smell, and loud sounds, an apparent indifference to social situations and people, and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances frequently occur in people identified with ASD (CSD, 2012). Repetitive movements such as rocking, twirling, flapping or self-abusive behavior such as biting, head banging, and screaming are common traits indentified as well. Frequently, children with characteristics of ASD have co-occurring conditions such as OCD, epilepsy, attention deficit disorder or learning disabilities that influence the unique functioning of the child.

The prevalence of autism is increasing in America and around the world. According to AutismSpeaks, ASD currently affects over 2 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum, which is a ten-fold increase in prevalence in the past 40 years (Autism Speaks, 2013). Furthermore, studies have found that boys are four to five times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. Currently, 1 out of 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States (Autism Speaks, 2013).  Although there is no established explanation for the cause or increasing statistics, scientists and doctors are starting to develop theories of how genetics and environmental factors influence autism to appear.

High hopes for people with autism in the workplace

“We need to see neurological diversity in much the same way as we’ve seen workplace diversity efforts in the past on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation,” he said. “We’re now seeing a growing level of interest in this.” -Ari Ne’eman

Autism and Employment:

Traditionally, people with any type of “disability” has had trouble finding employment. A recent news article on Fox, however, shows times are changing.

German computer software giant SAP and U.S. home financing firm Freddie Mac are advertising jobs specifically for people on the spectrum. Believing that “innovation comes from the edges”, these companies actually initiated a recruitment movement to find people with autism to test their new software.

Luisa Delgado, one of SAP’s human resources board member, states that “only by employing people who think differently and spark innovation will SAP be prepared to handle the challenges of the 21st Century.”

How do you feel about the new movement? Do you think other companies will model the recruitment initiative of these two companies?

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/04/thinking-differently-autism-patients-in-demand-by-employers/#ixzz2VSYKfuKV

Favorite Blog Posts for the Week

As I have been searching the internet reading about one of my favorite topic—education—I have come across some fantastic blog posts. I have listed my top 5 favorites of the week below: (Note: These blogs below contain different writing styles, education levels, and topics).

1. 10 Ideas to Move Innovation Forward http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/3890

2. Who am I? Words I’d use to describe myself with before my diagnosis. (written from a 12 year old who blogs almost daily) http://autisticandproud.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/who-am-i-words-id-use-to-describe-myself-with-before-my-diagnosis/

3. The Incredible Power of a Single Pair of Glasses http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mick-ebeling/eyewriter-ted-talk_b_3158106.html?ir=TED+Weekends&ref=topbar

4. How Public Health can Deliver Breakthroughs for the Autism Community: http://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2013/06/04/how-public-health-can-deliver-breakthroughs-autism-community

5. Autistic and Proud…in School Magazine (our 12 year old boy with autism makes the list a second time!!) http://autisticandproud.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/autistic-and-proud-in-school-magazine/

If you have come across any great blog post, please comment and let me know below!