April is Autism Awareness Month, and PBS KIDS has several shows to help celebrate! PBS KIDS gives representation for autism all year long with characters in programs including “Hero Elementary,” “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Arthur” and “Sesame Street.” These shows feature unique characters on the autism spectrum, highlighting their differences while also teaching kids the importance of acceptance.
AJ Gadgets is a member of the Sparks’ Crew with a thought projecting superpower, and he also happens to be on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. He has high knowledge on superheroes and can tell their entire biography and the tools they use. He really dislikes loud noises and the feeling of wearing wet clothing, flaps his hands when he feels overwhelmed and doesn’t go anywhere without his backpack.
In the double episode, “AJ’s Extra Superpower,” his autism is addressed for the first time. A little girl’s toy keeps disappearing and the Sparks’ Crew discovers the culprit is the neighbor’s dog. AJ’s extra superpower (his autism) is the key to figuring out how to keep it out.
“AJ’s Extra Superpower” will air on Arkansas PBS Sunday, April 11, at 7 a.m. and Tuesday, April 27, at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum”
In the episode, “I Am Temple Grandin,” the crew meets a new friend, Ben, who has autism. He is sensitive to loud noises and likes to do things his way, in his time. The three friends go to their secret museum and go back in time to meet autism spokesperson Temple Grandin as a child to better understand autism and how to make a connection with Ben. The friends learn that people think and do things differently, and that’s OK.
“I am Temple Grandin” will air on Arkansas PBS Thursday, April 22, at 7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”
Max is a new character introduced in the episode “Daniel’s New Friend Max” and will become a recurring character in the show. He is autistic, with a sensitivity to loud sounds, bright flashing lights and uncomfortable fabrics. He is a big fan of numbers, buses and bugs. In the episode, Daniel’s teacher explains that some things about Max are different than him. The teacher tells him that, sometimes, Max needs more time to understand a question and decide on an answer and sometimes when he is excited about something, he only wants to talk about that one thing. Daniel and his friends learn how they can help make situations calmer so Max can play, too.
Carl is George’s friend, and he has Asperger’s syndrome. He is an amazing artist who loves trains and can memorize many details about them. He has trouble with social interaction while around a lot of people, trouble with changing the subject and an aversion to loud noises.
He first appears in the episode, “When Carl Met George.” In this episode, George befriends Carl, but learns from Carl’s mom of his Asperger’s syndrome after Carl gets upset when George shows him his ventriloquist dummy. Another friend of George’s tells him that his uncle has Asperger’s syndrome too and explains that people with this disorder see the world differently than others. Carl is able to teach George how to better communicate with him by speaking quietly, being clear and not taking it personally if he ignores him.
Julia is a four-year-old with autism who is friends with Elmo and Abby. She sometimes does things differently, like not answering right away or flapping her arms when she gets excited. In her introductory episode, “Meet Julia,” Big Bird tells his friends that he’s never met anyone like Julia, and they tell him that he has friends of all different types and Julia will be no different. Julia helps the other Muppets understand that even though she communicates differently, she can still be their friend.
The latest episode featuring Julia, “Match It!,” will air on Arkansas PBS Monday, April 12, at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, April 14, at 10 a.m.
Each PBS KIDS program is an excellent source of education about autism for kids. You can also keep exploring with Sesame Street in Communities’ amazing resources for talking to children about autism at ssic.org/topics/autism.
See and search our most recently updated schedule anytime at myarkansaspbs.org/schedule.