As A Mom & Educator, I'm So Excited About This New PBS Kids Show

My 4-year-old nephew is autistic. I treasure any time I get to spend with him, getting glimpses into his rich inner world. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen him with any less than two toys in his hands at any given time. He wants to have at least one toy for each hand, and usually these toys need to go together: Mickey Mouse in his right hand, Minnie in the left. Or Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Whatever toys he chooses to carry with him on that given day, he keeps close.

And when I saw the announcement for PBS Kids’ new cartoon featuring an autistic main character — Carl The Collector — I immediately thought of my nephew.

Like my nephew, the show’s main character Carl is autistic and loves to collect things. Carl, however, is a raccoon, with a cast of animal friends, both neurotypical and neurodiverse. The show is geared toward kids 4 to 8; other characters include Lotta, a fox and artist who’s also autistic and experiences hypersensitivities to loud sounds and strong smells, and Forrest, an impulsive squirrel with a tree nut allergy.

I love the idea of this show as a mom and as an aunt; it warms my heart to think of my own nephew and kids like him being able to see themselves as the main character. I can picture my nephew watching with a huge smile on his face, holding more toys than you can count, dreaming about all the possibilities he has with his toys he keeps so close to him.

And I’m thankful as an elementary school teacher, too, that my students will get to see themselves accepted and celebrated. I can tell you that kids don’t label each other’s differences the way adults do. They just don’t see the differences and label them the way adults do.

My hope is that the show will highlight its characters as individuals who are neurodiverse, but that they are shown as characters with talents, abilities, and ambitions beyond being on the spectrum.

And it’s exciting to see all kids getting opportunities like this to build their emotional intelligence. My kids are still so little, and I don’t think they would even know what the words “anxiety,” “acceptance,” or “belonging” mean if I were to ask them. Cartoons are a great way to start building their understanding, at their level.

Carl the Collector is set to premiere this Fall on PBS Kids. My family will definitely be tuning in.

Madison is a teacher, a firefighter wife, and a mom of two young boys. An INFJ, she is obsessed with Myers-Briggs and probably wants to know your type, although she might be too awkward to ask. When Madison isn’t working, writing for Scary Mommy, or taking care of her boys, you can find her traveling, reading, and trying out new recipes.

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