As Christmas approaches and I prepare to celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth, I reflect on how the Saviour of` the world was once a tiny, vulnerable baby who depended on others for survival and remained vulnerable even as a man (Isaiah 53). Despite or perhaps because of His reliance on others, Jesus was called Emmanuel, “God with us”. …
I do not want you to suffer any more than you have to, but there has to be a solution other than physician-assisted death, because whether it seems like it or not, I believe every person, including you, is here for a reason. I hope you know that your life has value regardless of what you can or cannot do for yourself. You can still make a valuable impact on those you come into contact with. …
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
~Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)
I have a physical disability and as a child I spent some time wishing that I could be just like everyone else because I did not fully understand the value of diversity and differences. I did however understand the popular children’s TV show Sesame Street. It taught me many things including colors, counting, directions and even computer skills. I also remember being thrilled when a child in a wheelchair made a guest appearance on the TV show.
As increasing numbers of children are affected by autism, I am especially thankful that Sesame Street is now incorporating Julia, a character with autism. The sentiment that Julia likes to play, she just may play a little differently underscores the biblical truth that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, regardless of ability or “disability.” through the character of Julia and her friend Elmo, Sesame Street will help many children to understand some mannerisms of many people who have autism and offer communication strategies. It is hoped that this will diminish bullying of children with exceptional needs. I think it will also promote the biblical value of embracing differences and foster a greater variety of peer relationships.
For now, Julia is an online-only character featured in the storybook “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3” but that doesn’t prevent her and the numerous resources posted at the site “Sesame Street and Autism” (autism.sesamestreet.org) from being in a kid’s ministry setting! “Being a Friend” “Explaining Autism to Young Children” and “What to Say to A Parent of a Child with Autism” provide key tips, and a number of videos like “Nasaiah’s Day,” “A Parent’s Role” or “A Sibling Story” can help children’s ministry volunteers become familiar with the experiences of families of kids with autism.
Thanks, Sesame Street for striving to “see amazing in all children,” and helping to contextualize such an important biblical truth, that is, the value of embracing differences. As people of faith, may we be reminded that God sees amazing in all children as well as in all people. Further, may this be cause for the church to celebrate the different gifts of every person.
For more information, read the Atlantic article, “Sesame Street’s New Brand of Autism Education” or watch the following video (this may be useful in a Sunday School setting as well!):
When I approached her, she asked me what my dream was; I said, “I want to be a motivational speaker!” She replied, “So why aren’t you?” I proceeded to list off various obstacles including, lack of credentials, lack of an accessible vehicle and lack of an agent. To my surprise she did not offer me solutions. She said, “Great, you know what the problems are; now all you have to do is get a group of people together and find a way to solve them.” …