Sesame Street video helps kids with autism learn to wear a mask

For kids who have autism, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be a challenge.

[Sept. 21, 2020: Terri Peters]

For kids who have autism, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be a challenge.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind "Sesame Street," is hoping to help through a new collection of videos and resources designed to help children with autism and their families cope with adjusting to life during the coronavirus epidemic.

The collection, released on September 21, stars Julia, the 4-year-old Sesame Street muppet with autism, and helps autistic kids work through difficult concepts like social distancing, disrupted routines and mask wearing.

In a clip about the importance of wearing a mask, Julia engages in a video chat with her dad and shares that although she's excited about going to the park that day, she's worried her mask will bother her ears and tickle her nose.

After Julia's dad encourages her to practice wearing a mask at home, Julia and her stuffed bunny, Fluffster, give it a try, showing kids that practicing something that causes anxiety in advance may be beneficial.

Dr. Kerry Magro, a speaker and author who is on the autism spectrum, says when it comes to helping kids with sensory issues cope with mask wearing, Julia's dad gets it right.

Magro says removing uncertainty for kids with autism is key, adding that showing kids social stories — learning tools designed to help people with autism understand situations and problems and how people deal with them — that talk through the facts and various outcomes can help ease nerves.

"Sensory challenges, after communication difficulties, was my second biggest challenge growing up on the autism spectrum," Magro told TODAY Parents. "I had a hypersensitivity to touch which would have made wearing a mask as a kid nearly impossible."

Magro says through occupational therapy and a wide range of coping strategies accumulated over time, he's learned to manage most of his sensory challenges. But, for families with small children, Magro recommends doing just as Julia does in the Sesame Street clip and practicing with masks.

This Brighter Side of News post courtesy of Today.

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Joseph Shavit
Joseph ShavitSpace, Technology and Medical News Writer
Joseph Shavit is the head science news writer with a passion for communicating complex scientific discoveries to a broad audience. With a strong background in both science, business, product management, media leadership and entrepreneurship, Joseph possesses the unique ability to bridge the gap between business and technology, making intricate scientific concepts accessible and engaging to readers of all backgrounds.