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Autism advocacy group ends relationship with ‘Sesame Street’ over PSAs that ‘further stigma’

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) announced Monday it has ended its partnership with “Sesame Street,” accusing the children’s show of “further[ing] stigma” with a series of public service announcements.

ASAN previously collaborated with the show on the creation of Julia, its first autistic character, saying that before the series of PSAs, “the content Sesame Street produced showed parents that their autistic children could live great lives, and taught autistic and neurotypical children ways to become friends.”

{mosads}The recent PSAs, however, use the character to promote the nonprofit Autism Speaks’s “Screen for Autism” initiative, which ASAN writes “use[s] the language of acceptance and understanding to push resources that further stigma and treat autistic people as burdens on our families.”

For example, ASAN’s statement cites language in the initiative’s 100 Day Kit suggesting unrelated frustrations with spouses or family members are actually caused by autistic children, compares a diagnosis to a child dying, and “to view autism as a terrible disease from which their child can ‘get better.’ ”

ASAN writes that it discussed the harm associated with these ideas with the producers of “Sesame Street” and they acknowledged these harms but would not reconsider the collaboration with Autism Speaks.

“As a result, we have formally ended our partnership with ‘Sesame Street,’ ” the statement reads.

“The See Amazing initiative was groundbreaking because it offered an alternative to these stories. It let families know that their autistic children are amazing, can live happy lives, and are deserving of love,” ASAN writes.

“Now, ‘Sesame Street’ has decided to let See Amazing become just another vehicle for Autism Speaks to spread the same old toxic ideas,” it adds.

In a statement to The Hill, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the show, said “Our initiative was developed in close consultation with over 250 organizations and experts across the autism community and we continue to work with a wide range of advisors and organizations to ensure that our resources meet the needs of families and promote acceptance and inclusion.”

The Hill has reached out to Autism Speaks for comment.

— Updated at 12:03 p.m.

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