A new friend is coming to Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. The popular animated series on PBS Kids recently introduced viewers to Max, an autistic boy who is the nephew of Teacher Harriet. Voiced by a 13-year-old autistic boy, Max will make his big debut in April.
Max will join the little tiger and his friends in the classroom on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on April 5. As a young autistic boy, Max is sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds, and sometimes has trouble meeting new friends. The show will follow Daniel and his friends, including Max’s big sister Amira, as they learn to find ways to keep their environment calm for him so they can all play together.
Max is voiced by 13-year-old Israel Thomas-Bruce, an autistic boy who is "an active, smart and ambitious teenager who is very social and loves to tell jokes, play basketball and video games and hang out with his friends,” PBS Kids said in a press release shared with People.
In a clip shared by PBS Kids on YouTube, Daniel is seen trying to befriend Max as he plays with his buses. When Max doesn’t answer Daniel, Teacher Harriet comes along to explain, “Well Daniel, sometimes he needs more time to understand the question and decide how to answer. Let’s give him some time.” Max opens up eventually, and the whole scene is such a great way for preschoolers to learn how to give autistic children the extra space and time they might need to play.
Daniel Tiger welcomes his new autistic friend Max.
Chris Loggins, senior producer at Fred Rogers Productions (the producers behind Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) told People, “We're so excited to introduce Max to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and help even more kids feel represented and included on TV. It's also important for young viewers to understand that some friends have different needs and may learn, play and communicate in their own ways."
Autistic children tend to line up toys, play alone, and enjoy repetitive play more than their non-autistic peers, as Very Well explains, which can sometimes make collaborative play more challenging. Seeing Daniel Tiger finding a way to connect with Max, with the encouragement and support of Teacher Harriet, will hopefully help everyone understand how to be respectful of the different needs of some autistic children during play time.
Empathy goes a long way. And Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood teaches it just so beautifully with the addition of Max, coming on April 5.