I Just Learned Something New from "Sesame Street"

by Beth Chambers

The PBS children’s television show, Sesame Street is one that we all know, either from growing up with it or having children who learned their ABC’s and 123’s from the daily letter and number on the show.  Personally, every time I hear the state name, Oklahoma, I am reminded of the Broadway musical directed by Kermit the Frog and starring Forgetful Jones who forgot the starting vowel in the song, ‘Oklahoma’, substituting instead A, E, and I as the first letter before finally getting it right and then it was time to break for lunch!

Julia on Sesame Street.
Photo from sesamestreet.org

Last night, 60 Minutes did a segment on Sesame Street and introduced a new character, Julia.  She has autism.   Our Sunset Point Camp welcomes children with autism each summer to a new session, Buddy Week.  When we envisioned this week at the camp, the plan was to ‘partner’ one of our veteran campers with one of our new campers.  They would go to activities together and the campers who knew Sunset Point so well from years of camping, would essentially lead and teach.  The plan was great, but there was one component missing.  Kids at camp with autism want to be just like the other kids at camp.  They didn’t want to be treated differently.  They wanted to eat together, go to Arts and Crafts together, go to the beach together and, to our surprise, they wanted sleepovers.  That last part took a little convincing for the parents, but they were invited to stay also and everyone had a great time.  Once again though, we were reminded that a disability doesn’t necessarily make someone different.  They just do some things differently.

The final line during the 60 Minutes segment exemplifies the changes we have made for Buddy Week…  “I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism.  I would like her to be just Julia.”  We look forward to more Julias this summer!

Beth Chambers, MSW is Director of Catholic Charities South. For more information about Sunset Point Camp, please email info@ccab.org.

Campers enjoy Buddy Week 2016