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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sesame Street, Autism, and Congress

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the congressional role in the issue.

U.S. Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) and Chris Smith (R-NJ-4) today praised Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, for its roll-out of a campaign to educate families, teachers, and caregivers about autism.
“I want to commend Sesame Street’s ‘See Amazing in All Children’ campaign, which is intended to educate families, teachers, and caregivers about autism – and in doing so, help to de-stigmatize Autism Spectrum Disorder,” Congressman Doyle said today.

“Children with autism who receive early intervention and treatments following an ASD diagnosis demonstrate significant improvement in their long-term development and quality of life,” said Congressman Smith. “We also need to continue to focus on raising awareness about autism as an effective means to prevent the recent tragedies we have seen involving bullying of autistic youth and young adults.”
This initiative includes the development of more autism-friendly programming, web-based content, and apps for mobile devices along with Julia, the first autistic muppet,” Congressman Doyle added. “It’s great that autistic children will be able to see someone like them onscreen. Not only will Sesame Street be telling autistic kids that they are a valuable part of our community; it will also be bringing that message to other kids and teaching them the best ways to be more inclusive and help autistic children overcome some of the obstacles they may face.”
Sesame Street and Autism is a powerful example of the unique role Sesame Street can play in addressing real world issues impacting children, helping all kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder,” said Sherrie Westin, Executive Vice President, Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “The response to Julia and this initiative has been overwhelming and we were thrilled to be invited by Representatives Doyle and Smith to share these critical resources with Congress.”
Representatives Doyle and Smith, the co-founders and Co-Chairs of the Congressional Coalition on Autism Research and Education (CARE), praised Sesame Street at a briefing the caucus held today in Washington.

Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President for U.S. Social Impact at the Sesame Workshop, discussed the campaign, along with the three-year process Sesame Workshop undertook to develop it in collaboration with many different stakeholders.
The briefing also featured a presentation by Dr. Jennifer Stapel-Wax, Associate Professor at Emory University School of Medicine and Director of Infant and Toddler Clinical Research Operations at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, who discussed her research on the science behind early intervention, the barriers to early screening and detection, the core components of intervention for infants and toddlers, different types of intervention, and the best practices to date.
“Earlier diagnosis coupled with early intervention and comprehensive family support show great potential to improve the life-outcomes of children with autism,”
Congressman Doyle noted in his remarks at the briefing. “Early intervention can improve language skills and socialization, impact brain growth, and reduce lifetime care costs by two thirds. The CDC has concluded that intervention has the greatest impact on autism if it begins before three years of age. Unfortunately, we as a nation are currently failing to help the vast majority – 80 percent – of the children who could benefit from early intervention.”
Representatives Doyle and Smith are currently in the process of sending a letter to OMB asking the Administration to include funding in its next budget for an initiative to get more children tested for autism at an early age.