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New Animated PBS Series 'Hero Elementary' Features Autistic Science Superhero

Editor's Note

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What’s coming: A new series airing on PBS Kids Monday features four science-loving super heroes, including a boy on the autism spectrum. Titled “Hero Elementary,” the animated series follows students Lucita Sky, AJ Gadgets, Sara Snap and Benny Bubbles and their teacher Mr. Sparks as they take on the world using the power of science. AJ Gadgets, who never wants to be without his backpack, is autistic.

We feel like there is so much strength in the idea of portraying a kid on the spectrum as just one of the kids and not making a huge deal about his autism. — Christine Ferraro, series co-creator

The Frontlines: “Hero Elementary” was created by Christine Ferraro and Carol-Lynn Parente, who both worked on “Sesame Street.” They told the Chicago Sun Times they wanted AJ Gadgets to be one of the gang who happens to be autistic. This is much-needed representation in children’s TV programming.

  • One report analyzed 50 popular kids TV shows found only 16% included a disabled character, 50% of whom were portrayed as a villain
  • Kid programs that positively represented disability according to the report included the BBC show “Pablo,” “Sesame Street” and “Peppa Pig
  • “We believe that battling prejudice in adulthood is about normalising society during childhood,” the report said of disability representation.

A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Andrea Doten, explained that while autistic TV characters won’t represent everyone on the spectrum, representation still plays a role in autism acceptance. “Though autistic people all experience the condition differently, increasing neurodiversity on television is important to aid in both representation and the autism acceptance movement.” You can submit your first person story, too.

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From Our Community: 

At 31 years old I’ve been formally diagnosed with Autism

Add your voice: Join the Distract Me group on The Mighty by downloading our app or comment below.

Other things to know: Need ideas for other shows to watch that feature autistic characters? Here are a few to check out:

Where to watch: “Hero Elementary” is geared toward kids between the ages of 4 and 7, and PBS will release educational resources to accompany the TV show. It airs June 1, and you can watch an early preview of the first episode below.

Header image screenshot via PBS Kids

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