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PBS Kids' 'Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum' Introduces Autistic Character

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The inclusion of disabled characters in children’s television shows is important – it helps non-disabled kids learn about disability, and it helps disabled kids feel seen. 

The PBS Kids show “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” introduced an autistic character, Ben, in its show this past Monday, who is sensitive to loud noises. Ben becomes overwhelmed when the three lead characters Xavier, Yadina and Brad greet Ben with noisy enthusiasm.

In order to be a better friend to Ben, Xavier, Yadina and Brad go to their secret museum and travel back in time to speak to someone who can teach them about autism: Temple Grandin. Grandin is a prominent autistic spokesperson and scientist who also fought for animal rights.

Gradin told Comicbook that she was excited to be part of this project to help teach kids about autism, sensory issues and how to accommodate people who are living with disabilities you can’t see.

I think it’s good to teach children that other children may have differences, and one of the things that helped prevent me from being bullied when I was in elementary school was that the teachers explained to my classmates that I had a disability, but it wasn’t like crutches or a wheelchair where you could see it. I think all kids on the spectrum have some degree of sensory issues but they vary in the severity…. Some kids can’t stand bright lights; I had no problems with that. My problem was sound sensitivity and touch sensitivity. Another kid might struggle with sound sensitivity and smell sensitivity. So they will vary in severity, they can also vary in the sense system that’s affected by it

PBS Kids also introduced a new autistic character, Max, to its show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” this month. Research has found that disabled characters are very underrepresented in children’s shows, and if they are, they tend to be the villain or are used in a tokenistic way. Hopefully, these new characters will play a small but important role in improving autism acceptance this Autism Acceptance Month.

You can watch the full episode “I am Temple Grandin” episode of “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” below.

Image courtesy PBS Kids

Originally published: April 7, 2021
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