Addressing Disparities By Reducing Stigma and Increasing Acceptance?: Sesame Street’s See Amazing in All Children Online Initiative
While the diagnosis of ASD is common (CDC, 2016), poor understanding of the condition contributes to diagnostic and treatment disparities, discrimination, verbal abuse, and even physical violence (Sterzing et al., 2012). To help address this lack of awareness and acceptance, Sesame Workshop created “See Amazing in All Children.” This on-line, nationwide initiative, developed with input from parents, people who serve the autism community, and autistic people, includes video stories, an electronic storybook and routine cards for parents to use to help their kids with daily routines and life skills. These free resources offer all families ways to overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities while fostering an affirming narrative around autism for all families and kids.
To assess the impact of the See Amazing in All Children initiative on parents of young children with autism by measuring knowledge, attitudes and biases towards children with autism, parenting competence, empowerment, and engagement with the community prior to (PRE) and after (POST) reviewing the initiative materials. A parallel study will collect similar data from a community sample.
Parents review the materials and complete the PRE and POST evaluations on line. We expect to recruit at least 150 parents of preschoolers with ASD, 100 of those with both PRE and POST data. Here we report preliminary results; analyses of PRE data from 72 parents and PRE and POST data from 20 parents. The evaluation survey included:
- Detailed demographics (including gender, race/ethnicity, income, education displayed in table 1)
- Previous contact with the materials
- The Social Communication Questionnaire (Rutter, Bailey & Lord, 2003) to confirm diagnosis
- An Implicit Association Test to assess implicit bias, or hidden thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control, towards young children with autism
- Explicit attitudes and beliefs about autism through questions related to a short video of a child with ASD
- Parent knowledge about ASD, strain, competence and community inclusion/stigma/advocacy.
After PRE, participants are asked to view the See Amazing in All Children videos and other web content. Follow-up data is collected at 1 week and 1 month intervals after the parent reviews the materials.
Preliminary findings indicate strong associations among parents’ explicit attitudes and beliefs, total knowledge about ASD, stigma, and community inclusion. Implicit bias did not relate to other measures. See table 2 for findings. Preliminary pre-post data suggests improvements in knowledge will be evident at the one week time point. We hypothesize that the increase in knowledge gained from interacting with the See Amazing materials, and the positive and empowering nature of the materials, will result in a decreased sense of stigma, increased feelings of competence and empowerment, and a more positive attitude resulting in fewer biases.
Conclusions: Sesame Street, with its broad reach and positive messaging, is uniquely positioned to directly target parental and community knowledge and attitudes around ASD. The results of this study will not only tell us whether the Muppets are successful in their endeavor, but will provide insight into the factors that contribute to biases and stigma.