My daughter, Reine, loves sesame street. I can always count on Elmo to brighten her spirits. He’s red, he giggles, and Reine loves anything red that makes her giggle. When she’s out and she sees Elmo, she’s got to have it. From bandaid packets, to tissues, to backpacks. On an outing to the mall, we went into JCPenny to buy something for our cousin. At the time Reine was a little over two years old. She didn’t speak at all, but when she saw Elmo, she made sure I knew thats what she wanted. At the register, there was a display of tissues with all sorts of characters on them.You name it, it was there. Reine spotted Elmo and proceeded to get the packs of tissue with Elmo on it. I tried to ignore her, but she fussed. I was used to this behavior with her. I knew if I just let her have it, she’d calm down, but I was trying this new approach, where I don’t buy her whatever she picks up, because honestly, I was trying to prove to everyone else that I didn’t spoil my child. (My attempt didn’t work at all)
Reine began to scream, with tears streaming down her face, and that did it for me. I caved. I picked her up off the floor, and handed one of the tissue packs to the cashier, and asked him to ring it up quickly so I could give it back to my daughter. He laughed, and asked me if she was really crying for tissue. He couldn’t believe it. And I couldn’t believe him. Before becoming defensive, I thought maybe he didn’t know other toddlers. After he gave me the tissue with Elmos face on it, and continued with my transaction, his attempt to make conversation, made me very uncomfortable and quite angry. He said verbatim, “normal kids cry over toys, not tissue.” I didn’t even bother engaging. I got my things and left.
As none of you know, nor did the cashier, my now three year old daughter is autistic. She’s beautiful, smart, and very particular. She likes small objects that she can hold in her hand for long periods of time. She loves french fries with lots of ketchup. She also likes pizza, especially when its got pepperoni and lots of sauce. She loves singing. She knows every nursery rhyme known to man. She wakes up singing, and goes to bed singing. Its literally non-stop. There’s always a tune in her head.
As I’ve said before she loves sesame street, and after what I saw last night, I might love sesame street more than Reine does. I sat with her as she watched her usual videos on her tablet last night. As this was such a routine for us, I tuned out for a moment but I quickly noticed that she kept replaying a Sesame Street clip. I always make it a point to at least try to understand why she rewatches the same videos, so I waited for her to replay the video. When she did, I immediately felt butterflies in my stomach. Elmo’s friend, Julia had autism. I watched my daughter replay the video over and over, and all I could do was smile. She kept rewatching the 2 minute clip, as did I because I was so happy. Here was an accurate portrayal of a child with a special need, such as autism. Julia was happy, full of life, and wanted to do things in a very Julia way. Reine does things in a very Reine way.
I found it rather serendipitous that my daughter found the video. I felt like her watching the video with me there, was her way of telling me that the world was becoming more aware, and understanding of children like herself that are on the spectrum. There’s an autistic child on Sesame Street! Thats a big deal, and this anecdote is me saying thank you to Sesame Street for doing their part in representing children like my daughter and being so inclusive.