Austin PBS is our safe place.

Posted on Aug 25, 2018

A large part of the Austin PBS viewing experience for children is how it connects back to imagination. From The Neighborhood of Make-Believe in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to the origins of Big Bird’s best — and originally imaginary — friend Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street, encouraging young brains to think and dream outside the box is a PBS KIDS hallmark. For Michelle Haché and her sons Soren and Tristan, this developmental time with Austin PBS is an important part of their routine.

“I have two sons that are on the spectrum and children’s programming in general on commercial TV is not a sensory-friendly place for kids that are on the spectrum.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines to help balance media and everyday life, pointing to PBS KIDS as a leading resource for educational programming. Parents know they can trust the content their children watch on Austin PBS — it’s research-based, it’s commercial free and it demonstrates values that stay with kids, like how to be kind, how to be confident and how to be curious.

Caregivers rank PBS KIDS as the best media source for school readiness, for improved behavior and for shared family time. Michelle sees first-hand every day how Soren and Tristan grow with Austin PBS.

“When you’re a special-needs parent, you pick up pretty quickly on the fact that a lot of programming out there is a constant bombardment. But public television — it always has the best interest of your family in mind.”

The programming that Michelle’s family watches on Austin PBS is particularly important for her two sons, especially when it comes to nudging their imaginations in a low stimulus way. Engaging in make-believe is a significant component to human development. The AAP observes that delayed or absent pretend play skills are characteristic of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). A lack of creative thinking directly impacts emotional awareness; for people on the spectrum, there is extra difficulty when it comes to dealing with, or even just recognizing, feelings.

“The first time I ever saw my son do imaginative play was Thomas the Train. He’ll watch the program, he’ll run upstairs super super excited and he’ll grab the specific characters and he’ll come down and he’ll start to sort-of role-play with the little trains and everything. And the first time I saw him do something like that, I just thought it was incredible.”

For Tristan this was a big achievement! Before this Michelle wasn’t sure if she’d ever see her kids pretend play. The positive media landscape found on PBS is integral in many young lives. Most of us have strengthened our language, math and social skills alongside shows like Reading Rainbow, The Magic School Bus and Arthur. Michelle’s sons do the same, and the difference that it makes in their day-to-day, while perhaps more profound, is very much a reflection of the impact PBS KIDS has had on generations of Americans.

“I chose to be a sustaining member because KLRU is our safe place. Fred Rogers talked about an expression of care, and it’s something that every child needs, not just a child that’s on the spectrum. I always loved the way that he’d close his shows. He’d always say, “‘And I like you just the way you are.’”


PBS KIDS is available on-air 24/7 and online, where we’ve compiled all the PBS tools available for free use. Sesame Street has a site with dedicated resources for children with ASDs.