How To 'Hug' A Kid With Autism

Screenshot: Sesame Street

Video: It’s Autism Awareness Month, and to honour it, Sesame Street is showing us how to better support kids on the spectrum. They’ve released a few new short videos featuring Julia, the show’s first character with autism.

In the video above, Julia and her neurotypical big brother Samuel teach Abby a new kind of hug, as Julia doesn’t like big hugs. Some people with autism have a strong sensitivity to touch, so hugging can overwhelm them. Julia prefers “starfish hugs” — you and the other person each lift up a hand, spread out your fingers like a starfish and touch your fingertips together.

For kids with autism or sensory issues, you might suggest a starfish hug, or make up your own type of “hug”. A chicken hug? (Touch your elbows together and flap like a chicken.) A turtle hug? (You each make a “turtle shell” with your fist and then rub the shells together.)

The best thing to do is to simply ask the child what he’s comfortable with (or the parent if he cannot verbalise his preferences).

In the US, one in 68 children is diagnosed on the autism spectrum (ASD), according to Sesame Street’s initiative called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. Australia's statistics are very similar.

The site states: “While it’s true there can be significant differences between people with autism and their peers, all children want the same things: To feel safe, happy and loved.”


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