I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS as a toddler, and my parents waited to tell me when I was 13/14 because they weren’t sure how I’d react and they were afraid I would be picked on. Ironically, I did get picked on, and the kids that picked on me were nice to the other autistic kids, but they had no idea I was on the spectrum. My parents finally told me that PDD-NOS was a mild form of autism when I was 17 because I would have to take care of my IEP meetings and other stuff when I turn 18. At first I was ashamed of it, but then I did my research and everything finally fell into place.
When I heard that Sesame Street was introducing an autistic puppet named Julia back in 2017, I was excited because I used to watch the show as a kid and they knew that representation matters. However, I also had this realization: If my parents had informed me about my autism back then instead of waiting until I was in high school, I would’ve grown up repeatedly asking them why none of my favorite TV or movie characters were autistic. I also noticed that there were very few fictional females on the spectrum, which is why wrote a play called “The Earthling”. The show focuses on an alien named Polly who is raised in a backyard by a human couple. She displays autistic characteristics and struggles to fit in. Eventually, she meets a boy named Daryl, and he helps her interact with others. Along the way, she discovers that she can change for the better without changing herself completely. Audiences will finally see this nearly two-year-old project on Valentine’s Day.
I wanted to find a creative way to teach autism to kids, so I thought about how I would’ve explained it to my younger self. I would’ve told her that autistic people are like aliens that are trying to interact with humans. If Younger Cat were to watch this show, she would laugh at the jokes, hold her mom’s arm during the dramatic moments, and clap her hands as hard as she could. Most importantly, she would understand Polly's situation and what she herself is going through. Even though Younger Cat never saw an autistic girl like her on TV, there is an autistic girl out there who loves watching Julia on Sesame Street because she's seeing herself on the screen. I want more autistic children to grow up that way.
I’m Cat, I’m 23, I’m autistic, and I approve this message.