May 2018
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Stephanie C. Fox


Meet Julia, the Muppet with Autism. Trump and the GOP Want to Defund Her.

Meet Julia, the Muppet with autism, who has just joined the cast of Sesame Street – she’s the redhead with the toy bunny. Neurotypical kids will learn how to interact with kids on the autism spectrum, and be taught to accept us.

Julia, the Muppet with autism, holding her toy bunny, debuts on PBS. (Photograph by Zach Hyman of Sesame Workshop)

Julia, a Muppet With Autism, Joins the Cast of ‘Sesame Street’

Julia was on 60 Minutes last night, with Leslie Stahl doing the report.

The new Muppet promises to show her viewing audiences what kids with autism are like, complete with minimal eye contact, staring without blinking at whatever holds their attention while demonstrating intense focus on it, quirks, stimming, and more.

At least, that’s the idea. Meanwhile, the #Pumpkingropenfuehrer and the GOP want to defund PBS and NPR. It hurt his infamously weak ego.

Since the 1980s, ‘Sesame Street’ has featured a few greedy, grouchy characters who have had names like Ronald Grump and Donald Grump. Here’s a look at the three of them. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Trump wants to defund PBS. ‘Sesame Street’ brutally parodied him for decades.

Considering the fact that Trump has shown himself to be a bully, I don’t pity him for hurt feelings over this.

Trump doesn’t seem to understand that for every disability, that disability comes with an ability of some sort that others lack. It could be a point of view. It could be a talent. With people on the autism spectrum, it is often a talent. It is also often a steady, obsessive determination to hone both talent and fascination with a particular topic into a marketable skill that benefits society in some specific way – of our unique choosing. Taking away funding that benefits us is therefore wasteful.

If anyone has forgotten how Trump sees people who are different, this will remind them:

Maybe Steve Bannon is in on that, though. Bannon wants to destroy the present world order. See prior posts to this blog, Twitter, the not-fake news, and more for that. Here are some tweets by an anonymous and furious White House staffer with the inside track on him, the rest of the motley crew, and the #Pumpkingropenfuehrer.

Leslie Stahl also did a story for 60 Minutes on Temple Grandin several years ago, and this pair of brainstem scans is from that one.

The brainstem of Temple Grandin, the famous autism scientist with a Ph.D. in animal husbandry, is on the left. A neurotypical (NT) one is on the right. NTs represent “most people”. (Keep in mind that the human species is not made up of Aspie and neurotypicals – there are more brainstem types in existence!)

The only thing that Leslie Stahl did that infuriated me was to say that the branches off of Grandin’s brainstem went in “wrong” directions, rather than many. It’s a super-powered brainstem, with the tradeoff being that the branches for social interaction are not plugged into the same spot as for NTs. Ours go into data storage, and Stahl is pointing at the branches I am referring to.

For every super-power, just to remind us that we are human and that no one is born “better” than anyone else, there is a price tag. Social interactions have always been the chore for me, not learning things. But I don’t mind. I love being different, and don’t wish to “fit in”. I’ve always loved standing out, turned it into an asset, and studied and worked to make that a positive thing.

Temple Grandin’s unique brain

My father and I are Aspies and we got a kick out of this 60 Minutes story. He said to my mother, as she came back into the room, “We just saw our brains on TV.”

60 Minutes not only did a news segment on Temple Grandin, it also posted an article online.

Temple Grandin: Understanding autism

Something else about Temple Grandin, other than her brainstem, other than that she is on the autism spectrum, a thing that delights me, and ought to delight others, is that she insists upon emphasizing that she is not someone with autism who has managed to do interesting work. No. Instead, she is someone who has a great career who happens to be on the autism spectrum.

It’s not all about the autism. We are people who do whatever it is that we do who happen to be autistic or Aspies.

I like kids with Asperger’s and on the autism spectrum. They think a lot, and I like that. They don’t bully people. They tend to love cats. (I do.)

Grandin said absolutely nothing until she was 4 years old. I think I know why, because as an Aspie, I refused to speak any words with a “cute” little-kid-esque lisp. Everything had to be enunciated clearly with “Television English” – the kind that is taught at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting and is a mixture of educated New England and North Midwestern American accents – the first time I said any word.

PBS taught me how to speak and enunciate clearly with perfect grammar and Television English. It was ideal for an Aspergirl like me. The GOP would take all this away, defunding it. Damn them. I often joke that Morgan Freeman taught me to read, but I’m half-serious, because he does deserve some of the credit. The rest goes to my parents and to some solitary self-discipline. Oh, and a love of reading and finding things out.

I was determined to share what I am and how I think, and in the most positive way possible, so I wrote a short story that walks the reader through the markers of Asperger’s in girls, entitled Elephant’s Kitchen – An Aspergirl’s Study in Difference.

Several years later, following a fascinating with human overpopulation and ecosystems collapse, I decided to write that story from the point of view of an Asperwoman named Avril, highlighting the way we think, our quirks, our fondness for pockets in all dresses, skirts, pants, shorts (no putting keys in a handbag that can then be locked by mistake in a house or motor vehicle!), and so on.

That story, called Nae-Née, began as one novel with a population policy, rising sea levels, and a tour of the Earth’s problems. It later became a series of 3 novels, and I added an Aspie character in each one. By chance, they each turned out to be female. Avril’s husband is an Aspie too, but I wanted to show how prevalent the condition is. (If you click on these images, you’ll find that each one is hyperlinked.)

Aspies have contributed some great things throughout history, including novels (Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf), paintings (Vincent van Gogh – he died of an accidental gunshot wound, NOT a suicide – see this 60 Minutes story, The life and death of Vincent van Gogh), advances in the STEM disciplines (Isaac Newton showed many of the markers of autism), legal systems (the U.S. Constitution by James Madison and the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson), and more.

I should add that I have absolutely no compunction about posthumously spotting autism and Asperger’s in famous geniuses. Psychology and MRI scans came after the lifetimes of most humans who have ever existed, after all.

The point of discussing all this is that those of us who are alive now and who are working to make a success of ourselves and to leave something of value behind for the benefit of future humans when we see how autism works at its best need to see it. We need to look at this. It inspires us and gives us hope. This increases the likelihood of achieving our goals.

But if the GOP and our idiot Thief-in-Chief who hates the job he should never have applied for have anything to say about it, Julia and her new friends won’t be on television long enough to do kids both on and off of the autism spectrum enough good.


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