I am an adult now. I am a proud Autistic adult.
When most people read what I write, they are usually impressed.
When people who never read my writings and don’t know who I am, see me for the first time, they are usually unimpressed, some have expressed disgust.
There is a group of people who have a different reaction. I will talk about them in a minute.
First, I want to say how important Sesame Street is for me.
I was three years old when I taught myself how to read. I learned letters and words by spelling with my friends, the ones on the happy Street.
I was, still am, non-speaking so I could not tell anyone.
I also had, still have, very poor coordination and motor skills, so I could not write.
That was a little after I received my autism diagnosis. Everyone was paying attention to the things I was not learning, to milestones never reached, to words never spoken.
I had Sesame Street to help me learn, though. I was not “broken” when I was counting, singing, spelling, doing all these things in my head. Sesame Street knew nobody was missing, or lacking, anything. I was perfect! Everyone is perfect!
But in real life, as I grew older, doctors and teachers convinced everyone that I was too broken to be worthy of any effort toward education and a future.
Nobody saw me the way I was seen by my friends at Sesame Street.
Going back to that third group: there are people who, after hearing that I still need help with everything, that I cannot care for myself, that I cannot eat by myself, that I need someone paying attention to, and helping me, 24 hours a day, those people frown and pity me. Or they say things like:
This is so devastating!
She is such a tragedy!
Her parents must suffer so much!
Her life is miserable!
What a burden on her family!
Her parents’ lives must be pure despair!
She cannot understand feelings!
There is no future for someone like her!
That’s why, Sesame Street, I am so disappointed that you decided to partner with Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is the organization behind the words and expressions used by that third group of people I just mentioned.
Autism Speaks never uses positive words when talking about autism and Autistics. To Autism Speaks, I am a health crisis.
I will be very sad if you don’t reconsider this partnership. But I am very concerned about young Autistics that are like I am, like the three year-old me, who might be watching the show and silently learning, but who will always be seen through the eyes of that third group of people.
I know you would never allow those words in the Street. But people will think you support the sentiment when they see the Autism Speaks connection. And the young Autistics will not feel that they are perfect.
Sesame Street, you are all about diversity. Autism is part of neurodiversity. You accepted me even before I learned the word acceptance. Don’t do what Autism Speaks does and exclude us. Don’t partner with an organization that silences us. We are proud of who we are and we want all kids to feel this way. We want all children to know that Sesame Street is a safe place to be who they are, that acceptance is all around.
Please, listen to us and listen to the little me from many years ago, saying thank you for your love.
Here are some suggestions of organizations that embrace neurodiversity, acceptance and positivity. Some are run by Autistics. We are a diverse group and we love Sesame Street. Some of us have children and grandchildren who also love Sesame Street.
Note: To contact Sesame Street firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or sign the petition here. Thank you!