Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is introducing a new character next month named Max, a young boy who has autism. Max is the nephew of Teacher Harriet and is set to become the first character with Autism Spectrum Disorder on the show.
According to a release, Max is sensitive to loud noises, bright lights, and fabrics that are uncomfortable. He also “sometimes prefers to play on his own” and it “can also take more time for him to warm up to new friends and experience.” Max enjoys numbers, buses, and bugs, plus he is close with his older sister Amira, who will also be coming to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Thirteen-year-old Israel Thomas-Bruce, who was diagnosed with ASD when he was 4, will voice Max.
“We’re so excited to introduce Max to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and help even more kids feel represented and included on TV,” Chris Loggins, the supervising producer at Fred Rogers Productions, told People.
Along with the release announcing Max’s arrival, a clip introducing him was also released on PBS Kids’ YouTube channel. In the clip (watch above!), Daniel asks Max, who is playing with some toy buses, if he would like to build a block castle with him. When Max initially doesn’t respond, Daniel thinks he is ignoring him but Teacher Harriet explains that “sometimes when Max is really excited about something, he only wants to talk about that one thing.” Daniel then decides to try building a bus station instead of a castle, hoping that it will convince Max to play with him.
With the addition of Max, who is set to join the show on April 5, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is set to become the latest kid’s show to include a character with autism. Most famously, Sesame Street introduced Julia, a four-year-old puppet with autism, to the show in 2017.