Have you watched yet?

During World Autism Month, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood introduced a new character on their April 5, 2021 episode named Max, a young boy on the autism spectrum. Max will be a recurring character on the show moving forward.

This isn’t the first time that PBS Kids has represented our autism community on their network. They’ve also featured AJ Gadgets, a superhero on the autism spectrum featured on Hero Elementary, and an animated Dr. Temple Grandin on Xavier Riddle & the secret Museum.

These were some of the things I enjoyed about the episode (Note: Spoilers ahead).

Authentic representation. Autistic people like me who are autism entertainment consultants want a chance to succeed in the entertainment world, so this was wonderful to see. Max is voiced by someone who’s actually autistic in Israel Thomas-Bruce, a 13-year-old eighth-grader diagnosed with autism when he was 4. To further make sure the character was as realistic as possible, the show’s team consulted with the University of Missouri’s Dr. Wes Dotson.

The focus on self-regulation. During the episode, their teacher Harriet gives Max a weighted blanket. One of the other kids asks, “Are you cold, Max?” which leads to Harriet explaining why a weighted blanket helps Max by providing him deep pressure. As the show continues, we would also see Max wearing noise-canceling headphones to help with his challenges with loud noises.

Max likes to have his own space.” Harriet, who does a terrific job throughout the episode explaining Max’s autism diagnosis, had another nice moment discussing Max likes to have his space. I was able to resonate with this as, due to my sensory challenges as a kid, I could flourish when I had a little space and boundaries were put in place.

The emphasis on friendships. My favorite part of this episode was when Daniel Tiger asked Max a question. Max didn’t respond right away, which made Daniel Tiger question if Max wanted to be friends with him. Harriet explaining to Daniel Tiger that it takes time for Max to respond to a question, and then finally seeing Max respond a few seconds later was a beautiful moment. Growing up with autism, I didn’t start speaking in complete sentences till I was 7, and typically, it would take me a little extra time to respond. I felt at times kids my age didn’t want to be friends because they’d dismiss me right away as ‘uninterested’ when that wasn’t the case.

Overall, I’d recommend this episode without reservations in addition to continuing to recommend Daniel Tiger. Like Daniel Tiger says at the end of the episode, “Everybody is different,” and that’s ok. Educating children who might not have a personal connection to autism is essential, so I applaud Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood for their work here.

Would you like me to virtually speak to your group/school for World Autism Month? Contact me at Kerrymagro@gmail.com for more details!

Follow my journey on Facebook, my Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum that started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help support me so I can continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.

Follow my journey on Facebook, my Facebook Fan Page, & Instagram!

My name is Kerry Magro, a professional speaker and best-selling author who is also on the autism spectrum that started the nonprofit KFM Making a Difference in 2011 to help students with autism receive scholarship aid to pursue a post-secondary education. Help support me so I can continue to help students with autism go to college by making a tax-deductible donation to our nonprofit here.