Did you know that April is Autism Awareness month? With the latest reports from the CDC showing one in every 54 children in America diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s common to have a child with learning differences in nearly every classroom. But, if the resources in the classroom are missing, PBS is on a mission to help change that. From Daniel Tiger to Xavier Riddle and more, there are several autism-centric PBS kids’ shows to check out.
PBS has been absolutely crushing it with autism awareness this April, introducing not one but two new characters with ASD into their programs and loading their website with helpful resources for families. This mainstream character diversification goes a long way in helping viewers not only understand and accept learning differences but also to help us celebrate the unique gifts autistic children bring into their communities.
Happy Autism Awareness Month! Here’s everything you need to know about the new characters with ASD on PBS, previous PBS autism awareness programs and resources, and how you can watch with your family.
Ben, from Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum
BFFs Xavier, Yadina, and Brad travel back in time via their super-cool Secret Museum to meet Temple Grandin as a kid. If you’re new to Temple, she’s a real-life professor, best-selling author, and one of Time’s 100 most influential people. She also has autism and is a renowned autism activist.
Xavier, Yadina, and Brad are concerned when little Temple hides under couch cushions because she’s overwhelmed by noise, and later they’re confused when she refuses to fly a kite the same way that they do. But Temple helps the friends understand that she just does things a little differently. Together they change how they communicate with her (soft words, one person talks at a time). Xavier, Yadina, and Brad quickly learn that how Temple sees the world is a little different, but definitely cool. Then they travel back to the present day to use their new skills to get closer to Ben, a new student at school with ASD.
Real-life (and grown-up) Temple Grandin praised the episode after it aired, saying it was a great step forward in educating younger kids on “differences and inclusion.”
Max, from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Max is a new character recently introduced on Daniel Tiger who is also autistic. He loves bugs and buses and is sensitive to loud noises and bright lights. He takes a little extra time to respond to questions. Daniel and his friends get to know Ben and his differences, and by the end of the episode are learning how to make him feel welcome and comfortable in their classroom.
Watch the full episode with a PBS Kids subscription, or get a free 7-day trial through Amazon Prime. Learn about how PBS is helping kids with autism learn social-emotional skills through Daniel Tiger.
AJ Gadgets, from Hero Elementary
This show, which premiered last year, is about a group of superhero students with extra special powers. AJ Gadgets is one superhero who has the power of projection, meaning he can think and understand things in really cool ways. He’s also autistic, hates wet clothes, loud noises, and needs to be close to his backpack at all times.
You can watch Hero Elementary with a PBS Kids subscription or watch free videos on PBS Kids’ website.
Julia, from Sesame Street
PBS introduced us to Julia in 2017. She’s a super-smart and kind puppet who’s amazing at spotting patterns, has a hard time making eye contact, and doesn’t always respond to questions the first time around. The Sesame Street characters learn all about autism and Julia’s differences and figure out better ways to play together.
You can watch this episode for free here.
Meet Julia and learn about how to talk to young kids about autism here.