This month some new characters are being introduced on PBS Kids. On the animated TV show “Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum” we are introduced to Ben, who is a little different. He's sensitive to loud noises and he likes doing things his way and in his own time. Ben is autistic and he helps teach the show's regular cast about acceptance. “People think and do things differently. And that's OK,” says star Yadina after learning about Ben's specialness.
The 11-minute episode has the blessing of no less than Temple Grandin, the professor at Colorado State University and trailblazing spokesperson for people with autism. In the episode, the three friends Xavier, Yadina and Brad go to their secret museum and back in time to meet Grandin as a child to better understand her condition and how to make a connection with Ben.
“It was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful,” Grandin said recently via Zoom. “I think things like this show are really good on educating elementary school kids about differences and inclusion.”
The episode is one of several ways PBS Kids is celebrating Autism Awareness Month. On “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” viewers are introduced to Max, who avoids loud sounds and is comforted by a heavy blanket. He likes buses and bugs and marches to the beat of his own drummer.
Max represents the first time an autistic character has been highlighted on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” and the creators consulted autism experts and child development specialists. He fits neatly into an ongoing theme of the show which teaches that all people have unique needs and that friends can help.
“It was important for us to introduce this character, Max, authentically and with care, but the social and emotional message of the episode I think can apply to all of us,” said Chris Loggins, supervising producer of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” from Fred Rogers Productions.