New show teaches about autism acceptance

NEW YORK — A new child is introduced this month on the animated TV show “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” who is a little different. He’s sensitive to loud noises and he likes doing things his way, in his time.

Ben is autistic and he helps teach the show’s regular cast about acceptance. “People think and do things differently. And that’s OK,” says star Yadina after learning about Ben’s specialness.

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The 11-minute episode has the blessing of no less than Temple Grandin, the professor at Colorado State University and trailblazing spokesperson for people with autism.

In the episode, the three friends Xavier, Yadina and Brad go to their secret museum and back in time to meet Grandin as a child to better understand her condition and how to make a connection with Ben.

“It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful,” Grandin said recently via Zoom. “I think things like this show are really good on educating elementary school kids about differences and inclusion.”

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The episode — which premiered April 5 — is one of several ways PBS Kids is celebrating Autism Awareness Month. The Emmy-winning “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and new superhero series “Hero Elementary” also shine spotlights on characters with autism.

Children diagnosed with autism face social communication challenges and often exhibit restricted, repetitive behaviors. In 2020, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

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