I know I’ll get a bad rap for this but note the name of the blog.
You might have caught the story this week of a new character (and cause) for the Sesame Street universe — autistic Julia.
Yes, Sesame Street now takes on autism or rather the “stigma” of autism or rather the stigma of the autism spectrum.
First point — note the name Julia. When last we saw a “Julia,” she was the Obamaton cartoon character whose whole life was one long dependency upon the government for free stuff and services. All of which made her happy, feel fulfilled and brought purpose to her life. Remember that cartoon?
So why did Sesame Street pick that particular name? If you know anything about Sesame Street and the people behind it, you’d know that it might not just be a coincidence. For decades Sesame Street has been a hive of leftist agitation, pushing left-wing causes du jour, and painfully politically correct behavioral modification for kids.
I was eight when Sesame Street first started and even then I sensed a dark purpose behind behind the unctuous, saccharine patronizing and constant tut-tutting. My younger sister, far more impressionable than I, was turned into a zombie by the whole thing. As soon as the song started playing she’d run to the TV and just stare at it as the show went on. Upon hearing the song, I’d remember I had left some toy soldiers in my room or I’d hear my friends outside. I’d suggest that we turn it to Gilligan’s Island or something but my sister would squeal like a stuck pig.
Second point. It’s only been over the last decade that “autism” has become a cause. For a long time it was seen as a strange, not well-understood, mental affliction, hitting mostly boys. But for some reason, about a decade ago autism went mainstream. Autism morphed into “autism spectrum” so that more victims could be found and funding increased. It needed more funding because it affected, or could affect, “everyone.” It began to appear in TV shows and movies. Activist women, finding a disease that did not feature them as the center of attention, went into overdrive to find female sufferers to claim their share of the funding bounty.
Wiki, surprisingly, has an excellent note on Autism: “The number of people diagnosed has been increasing dramatically since the 1980s, partly due to changes in diagnostic practice and government-subsidized financial incentives for named diagnoses; the question of whether actual rates have increased is unresolved. ”
The “spectrum” is so broad that a large proportion of boys my age (and certainly most in any time before) would have qualified as “autistic.” So many of us were hyperactive, ignored our parents (when it was convenient), spasticly yelled out for seemingly no reason (usually really just trying to get attention), mindlessly banged on things, were often distracted or lived in our own worlds, talked to ourselves, had a couple of obsessive-compulsive habits, etc… I’m still a “perpetual motion machine” as my mom would say — always tapping my foot or drumming fingers — unless I’m actually asleep. Throw in some light or intermittent dyslexic characteristics (like transposing numbers) and we’re on our way to being diagnosed as “autistic.”
But we’re not autistic.
I’m not disparaging autism or downplaying it, it’s bad when it is actually present. My complaint is the attempt to “mainstream” it or pretend it’s everywhere. Sesame Street has autistic Julia wandering around the neighborhood and the only concern is that you might have to speak a little differently to her; that deep down, autistic Julia is just like you and me, except different. Got that?
That’s the Sesame Street world. But that’s not the real world so kids get confused. Julia has a light, harmless, TV- and propaganda-friendly personality disorder. A real sufferer of autism is very different. Kids will pick up on that person fast, assuming the parents would even let a true sufferer wander the neighborhood unsupervised. Kids encountering an autistic “Billy” are going to wonder why he’s pit bull autistic — head wobbling around like it’s on a swivel, incessant babbling, bizarre social skills (even for a young boy), etc — compared to cocker spaniel autistic Julia whose biggest problem seems to be that she can’t make eye contact or “does things a little differently” when they are on the playground. Yeah, it’s just that simple. No biggie.
In reality, it’s the difference between, say, a common cold, and pneumonia.
PBS explains their approach: “provides educational tools in online and printed story books and as a free downloadable app that feature ‘Sesame Street’ characters explaining to children how to interact with friends, like Julia, who have the neurodevelopmental disorder.”
In the Sesame Street world, such things are everywhere. We all have “friends” suffering from autism, don’t you?
The ratio one out of 68 kids have autism is usually tossed around. That’s a liberal reading so you can quickly figure the number of hard cases is much smaller.
So how likely is one of your “friends” has actual autism? Since it develops (and is diagnosed) early, before children form groups of friends, it is highly unlikely that anyone in a group would have it. Later friend groups tend to develop around people sharing similarities so it is still unlikely that a group would encountered and absorb anyone displaying abnormal (for the group) behavior. Sesame Street is treating autism as if it is cancer.
There are thousands, maybe millions, of people who will go their whole lives without encountering an openly autistic person. At the most we might encounter some oddball that we realize later might have been autistic, though they basically functioned.
Such attempts as these at mainstreaming true, full-blown autism, can be dangerous — for the sufferer and for the kids. The afflicted aren’t likely to fit in and guilting the other kids for not being able to fit Billy in, because your world sees Julia rather than Billy, is a disservice.
A better approach, I think, would be to show the autistic Billy. Let Sesame Street’s viewers see the real thing so they get a grasp of what it really is. Lessons can be offered on how to treat such sufferers or how to behave in their presence (though it’s likely that few kids would consistently encounter an actual hardcore sufferer). It could also aid in making it clear that there are sufferers who can function in the real world.
You might think I’m overreacting but this is one way the left infiltrates itself into every nook and cranny of our lives — through little and seemingly harmless, sometimes generous items like this.