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Explore These Autism Awareness Month Shows from Twin Cities PBS

March 28, 2024

Cartoon superhero boy

AJ Gadgets

The Twin Cities PBS-produced PBS Kids franchise Hero Elementary is known for teaching kids the “superpowers of science.” But did you know the series has also proven to increase understanding of Autism in viewers?

April is Autism Awareness Month. We invite you to take time this month to watch Hero Elementary’s episode “AJ’s Extra Super Power.” The episode originally aired on National Autism Awareness Day in 2021 and features the character AJ Gadgets, who has autism. TPT and external researchers tested the impact of viewing this episode highlighting AJ Gadgets.  The research study found that, after viewing the episode, children’s understanding of autism increased, and children viewed autism as a positive quality. You can learn more about our hero with autism here.

Hero Elementary is funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a Ready to Learn grant. TPT produces the PBS Kids series and content. This expansive educational media initiative focuses on improving school readiness in science and literacy for children grades K-2 nationwide, with an emphasis on Latino communities, English language learners, youth with disabilities and children from low-income households.

The series teaches us that EVERYONE has a superpower, and even though each person’s strength is different, it is important to recognize the value of every individual’s superpower in helping save the day!

Read more about Hero Elementary and some engaging learning resources at

TPT has curated the following collection of programs to share individuals’ stories and experiences with autism.

Sesame Street: Meet Julia

Meet Julia, an old buddy of Elmo’s and the newest friend on Sesame Street. Julia has autism…and she and Elmo share an amazing friendship.


Art + Medicine: Disability, Culture and Creativity  -“HEAVEN IS ALL GOODBYES, BUT I HOPE…”

Poet Said Shaiye performs Heaven is All Goodbyes, but I Hope it’s Soft on identity and life experiences being an autistic Black man in Minnesota. Performed at the American Swedish Institute for Art + Medicine: Disability, Culture and Creativity, a collaboration between Twin Cities PBS and the Center for the Art of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. With Audio Description.


Our Time: Blindness and Autism – Blind Sighted & A Lonely Highway

Representations of Americans with disabilities are in desperate need of a refresh. Even as assistive technologies help people adapt, the stigma associated with blindness and autism, in particular, continue to sting. Filmmakers overcome numerous obstacles with humor and humanity as they seek a deeper sense of belonging.


In a Different Key  

A mother tracks down the first person ever diagnosed with autism, now an elderly man living in rural Mississippi, to learn if his life story holds promise for her own autistic son. Her journey exposes a startling record of cruelty and kindness alike, framed by forces like race, money and privilege – but leads to hope that more communities are learning to have the backs of people on the spectrum.


Brandon Spots His Sign from “Almanac” 

Sheletta Brundidge talks about her children’s book, which is inspired by her son Brandon.


Independent Lens: The Great World of Gregory Blackstock 

The richly obsessive life and work of renowned autistic artist Gregory Blackstock comes to life, as he uses his art to catalogue and make sense of the world around him. Gregory’s cousin Dorothy helps bring his drawings to the attention of the art world, while the film brings his work to life through hand-crafted animation, drawing you into the unique vision of this singular artist.


© Twin Cities Public Television - 2024. All rights reserved.


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