‘Sesame Street’ Changing Attitudes About Autism
Five years after “Sesame Street” put its focus on autism, new research suggests the show’s materials are helping to change minds among parents of kids with and without the developmental disorder.
The venerable children’s television show introduced a character with autism and a collection of online materials with information about the condition and resources for families in 2015.
Looking at the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” website made a difference for parents, whether or not they were personally affected by the developmental disability, according to findings published late last month in the journal Autism.
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Researchers assessed levels of implicit bias toward children with autism in 473 parents of kids on the spectrum and 707 parents of those without the developmental disorder. The evaluations, which examined attitudes and knowledge about autism, parenting confidence, strain and stigma, were conducted before and after the parents reviewed the “See Amazing” website.
The study found that parents of children with autism had less bias toward kids on the spectrum than the other moms and dads before looking at the website. After reviewing the materials, however, bias reduced among the parents of children without autism and the two groups of parents had comparable levels.
Meanwhile, many parents of children with autism showed better attitudes and more knowledge about the developmental disorder after spending time on the website, which helped them feel more empowered.
The findings suggest that “acquiring knowledge from a website may serve as an easy, quick way to reduce bias without potential harmful consequences toward individuals with autism,” noted Cheryl L. Dickter of William & Mary and her colleagues.
“Our results provide an encouraging step in improving attitudes toward individuals with autism,” the study authors concluded.