My Name is Frank. I Work at Sesame Street. I am "Autism Daddy"
September 27, 2015
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Now Reading: My Name is Frank. I Work at Sesame Street. I am "Autism Daddy"
September 27, 2015
(originally written & published on September 27, 2015)
Hi my name is Frank.
I’ve been blogging anonymously as Autism Daddy since April 2011.
I’ve also been working at Sesame Street as Frank since May 1994.
In the early part of my career at sesame I travelled the world working on foreign versions (co-productions) of Sesame Street.
Throughout the late ’90s & early 00’s I went to China, Japan, South Africa, Canada, England, Hungary, and Brazil helping to train foreign broadcast teams in how to make their own local version of Sesame Street.
It was extremely hard work but it was truly amazing! I was in my late 20s and early 30s with a new wife and no kids and I was traveling the world and going to lots of places that I would probably never think about visiting.
In college I never thought I’d be traveling to Shanghai China to work with the voice dubbing talent to guide them in now to do Ernie’s voice and Elmo’s voice on their version of Sesame Street called “Zhima Jie”.
I never thought I’d be in Johannesburg, South Africa helping to teach their post production team on how to plan their show, “Takalani Sesame”, across the entire season to get the most educational impact.
I never thought I’d be in São Paulo helping to audition the puppeteers to bring Sesame Street (“Vila Sesamo”) back to Brazil for the first time since 1977.
However, I haven’t been on an international trip for sesame since 2007.
The king was born in 2003 and was diagnosed with autism in 2005.
And around that same time in 2005, when things were still quite crazy at home with his majesty (and they are still quite crazy 10 years later!) there was a new very high profile co-production starting in Indonesia. And I was honored when my boss asked me to be the Sesame international producer on it. But in the budget there was 3-4 trips to Indonesia at about 2 weeks each scheduled over the course of the following year.
And wifey and I had a sit down and we talked about it and it just all seemed like too much. The king was having a rougher time back then. The diagnosis was still kinda new. Wifey & I were struggling. She really needed my help in the evenings and on the weekends. And it just felt like too many days away from home and Indonesia felt way too far away for me to be in case there was an emergency.
So I had to go to my boss and say, due to my situation at home and my son’s autism I just don’t think it’s possible for me to travel as much as I used to…
So for a year or two I was put on lower profile projects that required less travel (in the UK & Brazil) and then in 2007 I got a job shift that required me to not have to travel much at all.
And now here it is 8 years later I’m still here at sesame, in a similar role to the one I shifted into in 2007.
And yes, I will plainly say that my child having severe autism and later epilepsy probably totally changed the trajectory of my career.
Did it hold me back?
Probably. But who knows? However, I truly have no regrets about making that change. It was better for my life, for my wife’s life, and most importantly for my son’s life I believe.
And now it’s 2015 and I’ve been working at sesame for over 21 years.
And writing & blogging as Autism Daddy for over 4 years.
So why did I decide that now is the time to come out and reveal who I am and where I work?
Because now is the time that my two worlds are colliding.
For the last year I’ve been working on an outreach initiative here at Sesame that deals with autism.
Sesame has a long successful line of amazing outreach initiatives over the years.
For example, Sesame recently produced an initiative to help kids with incarcerated parents (http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/incarceration).
Sesame also recently produced an initiative to help military families. http://www.sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/
And now, next month, in October sesame will be launching its autism outreach initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, to help autism families and the general public.
And I was heavily involved in the production of all the video segments that you will see next month. I was the Sesame producer and helped to find a few amazing filmmakers who found some truly beautiful autism families. And together with a team of other folks at sesame I feel that we’ve created a really great music video to an extremely catchy tune which hopefully you will be know all the words to and will humming in your sleep next month and several films that follow a few autism families stories that I expect tons of you to relate to.
So basically I’m outing myself for 2 reasons
1) because I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve helped accomplish and I want to share it with y’all and say “Hey check this out. I worked on this”
2) because, not to toot my own horn, but with over 120,000 followers on Facebook I’ve got a pretty darn large autism platform at my disposal and I want to promote this Sesame Autism initiative big time to help it reach the most eyeballs. And if I did that as my anonymous self some of you would be thinking “why does he keep promoting this?” Well now you know why. Cuz I work there, and I want as many people to see these videos and use these resources as possible.
Now the initiative is not just about videos and films. There’s lots of other stuff that will be on the website when it goes live in mid to late October. For now that is top secret.
So there you go. So in the next days & weeks I will be teasing the launch and also promoting some ways for you to get involved in our social media campaigns.
And when it goes live you can find it all, not on the show itself, but on the web at www.sesamestreet.org/autism
But for now, that’s it.
And in case you were wondering…
I don’t expect this announcement of who I am and where I work to change my Facebook page or blog much at all.
Wifey will still be wifey… The king will still be the king or his majesty. You still probably won’t see their faces.
And I’ll still be Autism Daddy or AD even though now you know that I’m Frank who works at Sesame Street.
Written byFrank Campagna
I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).