(originally written & published on October 21, 2015)
So a few weeks back I revealed to y'all in a blog post that My Name is Frank. I Work at Sesame Street. I am "Autism Daddy"
interactive flash cards featuring the Sesame Street muppet characters, a storybook featuring a new muppet character names Julia who has autism, some interesting articles, ands bunch of video segments.
The first was to use our characters in routine cards. The autism parents in the focus groups expressed that yes there are tons of these types of resources out there that show the steps to everyday routines like brushing your teeth and crossing the street, but they are usually pretty basic & mundane. These parents said that having Sesame characters featured on the cards and having them slightly animated and maybe even voiced by a Sesame character would be HUGE for some kids on the autism spectrum.
So on the site you will find
8 Sesame Street "Daily Routine Cards" that we hope will make a difference in making some everyday challenges a little easier.
And that's where the animation "Benny's Story" fits in. This is an animation that was created & voiced by Shane McKaskle thru Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit school for young adults with autism pursuing careers in visual effects & digital animation)
And that's where our music video "The Amazing Song" fits in.
And that's where several of our films featuring kids with autism in everyday family "day in the life" situations fit in
These are all elements of the initiative that we hope kids with autism & their families will enjoy and relate to, but more importantly we hope that the general public will enjoy and will learn that kids with autism might be a little different, but can still be amazing in their own way.
The third area that the focus groups told Sesame to focus on was reaching parents. Reaching parents of kids with autism, and reaching parents of neurotypical kids, and just showing the world some of the challenges but lots of the joys of raising a child with autism.
And as you can imagine this is the part of the project that I was most invested in, and in the end it's the part of the project that I am the most proud of. On the site there are 5 films featuring autism parents that are aimed more to adults. I love them all, but as an autism daddy the one that spoke to me and was closest to my reality is called "Being A Supportive Parent"
Watch this autism daddy Ricky tell it like it is...
Ok, so wipe all those tears away, and let's continue.
So what was it like for me to write this blog, and be a daddy of an autistic child, and also work on this initiative?
I will admit that some days it was hard to focus on autism all day at work, and then jump right back into it when I walked in the door at night. For the last 10 years work was somewhat of an escape from being an autism daddy. Now autism was with me everywhere.
So I guess you could say that for the most part working on this project was truly amazing! But it was at times difficult and it was at times bittersweet. But I only cried once! (more on that later)
I was involved in the production of all the films. I went to all the shoots for all the autism films and got to meet all the truly awesome autism families you will see featured in these films. And in meeting these families it was truly eye opening to watch these parents with autistic kids much younger than mine.
Each of these parents, many of whom were 8-9 years behind me on their autism journey deal inspired me with the poise and the patience they had in dealing with the everyday struggles & challenges of raising a kid with autism. 10 years into my autism journey with my son and I truly learned something from meeting each of these families and hearing their stories.
So that's about it. I think I'll end this here. The site is now live. The resources are all up there.
And I'm extremely proud of what Sesame has put together and has put out there for the autism community, and am extremely proud that I got to be a small part of it all.
And I hope that you all love it. And love it so much that you tell Sesame to make a lot more of it!
And to that end, we want you to share all the content like crazy via social media in the next few days and weeks so it gets out there to the widest audience possible.
And we want you to share your own autism stories on social media about the autism kids in your life and use the hashtag #seeamazing
Ok, I'll end it there...
Oh, yeah but first my crying story...
So remember back in March and April when ol' Autism Daddy went to LA & Utah. Well Utah was for my public speaking debut, but why was I in LA?
I was there for the shooting of the autism music video called "The Amazing Song"
And I had a "moment" on the second day of shooting.
Basically the shot called for Elmo, Abby, and Grover to be blowing bubbles. And I was helping the muppeteer who plays Abby Cadabby blow bubbles.
We were shooting on this little hill, the weather was perfect, sunny and warm, (while it was still snowing in NY) and I was sitting on the grass all crouched over so I wouldn't be in the shot. I looked behind me and there was 4-5 pre-schoolers with autism jumping around, popping bubbles, having an amazing time and I looked in front of me, and behind the camera there was 8-10 autism moms & dads showing their love and support and shouting "pop those bubbles", "good job!", "don't grab Grover's nose" (a very common phrase over the 2 day shoot) :)
And in that one moment I got a bit emotional & choked up.
Luckily nobody noticed because I had bubble solution all over my face.
That's it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
-- If you're gonna shop Amazon anyway, can I ask that you enter Amazon by using the search box above or by going to http://www.amazon.com/?tag=a050ef-20 This way I can make a little money to help pay for my son's after school & weekend therapies. This blogging thing has been awesome & life changing for me... but I must admit that it's taking up a lot more time than I ever thought... so if I can make a few bucks it'll make it easier for me to justify....Love you all! Thanks!!