Taking Action to End the Stigma of Autism through Pop Culture Webisodes

James-and-Jonathan-Bluebee-TeeVeeFor decades, the message has been ‘awareness’ for autism, and in the past few years the community has been speaking out and saying it’s time for ‘acceptance.’ But saying it isn’t enough. We have use whatever resources we personally have to offer and take actionable steps for change to happen.

I met James about a year ago and was so impressed with his filmmaking—he’s a part of the YouTube generation with his own channel for reviewing video games, cartoons, movies, and anything else that catches his attention. In so many ways, he reminds me of my son, Jonathan, who is a voice actor for video games and other media. They are skilled, talented, funny…and both are on the autism spectrum.

“Is there a way for us to take action?” I wondered.

These two have the gift for entertaining—it’s their comfort zone and I just knew we could come up with a way to tap into their talents to make a difference.

I also knew that in order to make the shift from awareness to acceptance, we have to educate children about autism in a way that helps them make a human connection to see past any kind of differences to discover that we’re all pretty much the same at heart. And I believed that the way that James and Jonathan could contribute is through their love of and expertise in pop-culture.

A serendipitous e-mail introduction gave me an idea!

Laura Jiencke is a CEO of a toy company and a friend of mine is using her Bluebee Pals—plushie animals that talk using Bluetooth® technology—in her speech and language classes. She introduced me to Laura through an email.  Laura is the kind of CEO you want to be involved with—innovator, savvy, compassionate, caring—and she’s donating her ‘pals’ to schools and special needs organizations throughout the country to help children in their therapies and classrooms.

I approached her with an idea: “What if James and Jonathan create a webisode series about autism…sort of a quirky Mr. Rogers having a chat with his Bluebee Pal?”

Her response, “Let’s do it!”

And Bluebee TeeVee, Autism Information Station webisode series became a reality.

James is the show’s host and he’s also the scriptwriter, filmmaker, and editor. Jonathan develops and performs the character voices for each of the Bluebee Pal co-hosts. We make sure that the content is clinically correct with the help of good people at QSAC (Quality Services for the Autism Community).

“There’s going to be 8 webisodes initially,” says James. “Each one is about 5 minutes in length and focuses on one autism-related topic. Episode 1 answers the question: What is autism? There’s even a Frozen reference!”

“Upcoming webisodes will discuss friendship, bullying, safety, and communication,” says Jonathan.

Both James and Jonathan have worked so hard to make Bluebee TeeVee something really special. They’re so happy and proud to be doing something that will help to end the stigma of autism. It’s been so rewarding to see them blossom from working on it.

“I was bullied and isolated in elementary school,” says Jonathan. “I was different and the kids use to tease and taunt me. When my parents finally found a great school for me where I was liked and accepted…my life changed dramatically.”

James had similar experiences. “When I was growing up, I knew very little about my autism, and neither did my teachers and especially not other children my age. I think it will help them understand some of their peers whom they sense might be different.”

Jonathan likes the fact that it brings autism out in to the open in a way that’s approachable. “There shouldn’t be any shame about being on the spectrum so we don’t need to hide it. When you are fearful, that’s when bullies can take advantage. Let’s talk about it.”

Watch Episode 1: What is Autism?

More Information and Episode Guides: http://bit.ly/bluebeetv

Download the webisodes and tool kit: http://bit.ly/bluebeeTV-autism-education

About Jodi Murphy

Jodi MurphyJodi is the founder of Geek Club Books, 501c3 focused on innovative, entertaining autism education. They tell the stories of autism through apps, curriculum, digital media, blog content and webisodes to change perceptions and end stigmas surrounding autism. She has a team of autistic adults who work on everything Geek Club Books creates. She is also co-founder of Zoom Autism Magazine, a new digital magazine that focuses on autism through many lenses. Jodi dreams of a world where those on the autism spectrum are valued and given every opportunity to share their gifts with the world. Sign up for Geek Club Books mailing list for free apps, resource guides, curriculum, audio stories and more: www.geekclubbooks.com/email-sign-up.