As you already know, your child is simply amazing. And the beginning of a new school year is an amazing time for both kids and grown-ups to notice the rich tapestry that makes up our human experience. Diversity has always been important at Sesame Street, and it’s also the foundation of our new autism initiative, See Amazing in All Children.
No matter what your child’s unique strengths and challenges are, there are lots of ways to help kids notice and appreciate the variety of abilities, skills, preferences, and personalities that make up any group:
Talk about it. Talk openly about how we’re all the same, and how we’re all different…and that we can enjoy each other as we are, at school and in the wider world. For instance, you might say:
- You and _____ are the same in some ways and different in others.
- It’s okay to be curious about people different from you. We are all made differently. No one is the same. Isn’t that neat?
- People have ways besides talking to tell us what they know and want.
- Everyone does things differently, and everyone’s brain works differently.
- It’s okay to be confused when you see someone doing something very differently than you. You can ask a grown-up about it.
- Some kids might have a harder time moving, talking, listening, understanding, playing, and learning, or they may do those things in a way that you don’t. That’s okay.
Encourage kids to ask questions (remember, it’s okay to not have all the answers!)
Watch our Autism Song “Amazing” and talk about what you see in the music video. What are the children in the video doing that your child also likes to do? What are they doing that is a little different? After a few viewings, both you and your child will likely have some of the words and tune memorized and you can sing it as questions arise.
Together, read our storybook, We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3 and discuss. Julia has autism, and she’s a new friend on Sesame Street. As you read, ask your child what she notices. How are Elmo and Julia the same? How are they different? How does Elmo help Abby figure out how to play with Julia?
Help kids reach out. Everyone does better when they have love and support from their families and friends. If there are children with autism in your child’s life, share these ideas to help build understanding:
- Include him. Sometimes another kid may want to play but may not know how to ask. You can tell him exactly what they can do to join the fun, and give him what needs (like “You can stack these blocks with us. Here is a block.”). Try to find something you both like (like animals or trucks ).
- Keep trying. It may take time, and a few different tries on different days, to get to know a new friend. That’s okay.
- People have ways besides talking to tell us what they know and want. Children with autism might put your hand on an object for help, repeat what you say, or use sounds or pictures to let you know what they want.
- We all have different ways of helping ourselves. When you see your friend hand flapping, rocking, or repeating noises, that might mean she’s trying to calm down.
- Be patient. Just because your friend is quiet or looking away doesn’t mean she is not listening or getting what you say. She may need more time to respond. It’s okay to repeat yourself or wait a bit.
- Tell a grown-up if you see someone being unkind to your friend.
The beginning of school is a time that’s filled with excitement (and maybe just a little chaos!), but it’s also full of endless teachable moments that can help your child appreciate differences…and become smarter, stronger, and kinder as they grow. Take advantage of your child’s chatter about his classmates and his new social experiences, and look for valuable learning opportunities that will last a lifetime!