Representation benefits all kids. But just 16% of kids' shows worldwide include disabled characters, and over 50% of those disabled characters were either the villain, or used in a tokenistic way to teach non-disabled kids a lesson.
That's not cool. So, we did some digging to find which kids' TV shows DO show positive disability representation. And by digging, we mostly just mean watching kids' TV shows.
Most of these shows have disabled actors and writers, too — portraying disability as authentically and positively as possible.
Three characters in the show have clear disabilities: Julia, who's autistic, and Ameera and Ricardo, who use mobility aids. This show's always been known for its inclusivity, and has had disabled kids as guests, as well.
Julia was introduced in 2017 as a four-year-old with autism. She's is a shy artist who sometimes misses social cues and does her own thing. Elmo and Abby notice “she does things a little differently, in a ‘Julia’ sort of way.”
Julia even has a few extra clips to help families with autism understand why we need to wear face masks.
Ameera is an 8-year-old that loves science and basketball. She also happens to use a wheelchair an forearm crutches because of a spinal cord injury.
Ricardo is Rosita's father. While Rosita has been a major character on Sesame Street since 1991, her father made his first on-screen appearance in a 2004. He's a veteran and uses a wheelchair. He's also an expert in self care. Watch on: PBS, HBO Max, YouTube
Goldie and Bear
In this Disney Jr. show, Goldie’s mom, Marian Locks, uses a wheelchair. And it’s completely normalized! It's just a fact, and not a big deal in the show at all.
Marian is a businesswoman who travels the world collecting things for their forest — proving that yes, disabled parents exist. And they can work meaningful jobs, too.
Watch on: Disney, Disney+
This show is centered around a 5-year-old autistic boy who creates imaginary friends with his magic crayons. Pablo and his friends go on adventures, and they even help him with situations that may make him anxious or overwhelmed, like going to the grocery store.
The main cast members of the show are all autistic, and some have co-written some of the scripts.
Every episode explores storylines that are honest and humorous and are inspired by real-life experiences of these children.
Watch on: Roku, Tubi, YouTube
Daniel Tiger has two disabled characters: Chrissie, who has cerebral palsy, and Max, who is autistic. Both are Daniel's friends!
Chrissie wears leg braces and uses forearm crutches to walk, just like a lot of kids with cerebral palsy do! She loves to dance and act and ride horses — she just needs a little help getting onto her horse.
Max is sensitive to overwhelming things like loud sounds, bright flashing lights and scratchy fabrics. It also takes him some extra time to warm up to new people and things, and he sometimes likes to play by himself. He loves numbers, buses, and bugs, and his big sister. Daniel Tiger and their friends help make situations calmer so Max can play with them, too.
Beyond that, Daniel Tiger also addresses big feelings in approachable ways — benefitting all kids who might struggle with emotional regulation, anxiety, or adjusting to new things.
Watch on: Prime, Vudu, Disney, Disney+
Bluey's friends Dougie and Jack both have disabilities. Dougie is nonspeaking, and Jack has ADHD.
Dougie uses Australian Sign Language (Auslan) to communicate with his mom. He's portrayed in exactly the same light as Bingo, and his disability isn’t mentioned or made a thing of. It's normalized!
Jack has an entire episode, called "Army", where he narrates, and it's clear he's neurodivergent. He dives into detail, struggles to sit still or focus, and doesn't quite get to the main point of his story, but he's just a kid who wants to play and make friends.
At one point, Jack says, “There's something going on with me. I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I can't sit still, and I can't remember anything, like numbers or letters or my hat.”
“Well,” his new friend Rusty replies, “you’re really good at playing army.”
Some say Bluey might be neurodivergent, too, and feel very strongly about this, but it's not mentioned outwardly in the show.
Watch on: Disney, Disney+
This Irish kids' show is the first kids' show with a main character who has Down syndrome. Punky is 6 years old and lives with her grandma and her dog. She loves music, dancing, and hugs. The show is about her daily adventures, just like any other kid!
She's voiced by an actress who also has Down syndrome, too.
Watch on: Peacock, Roku, Prime, YouTube
Peppa's friend Mandy Mouse uses a wheelchair. She's really good at playing basketball. At one point in her first episode, Peppa asks her why she uses a wheelchair, and she explains that it's because she was born with legs that do not work like Peppa's.
Her disability is not the main part of the story — she's just another kid in the show!
Watch on: Disney+, Paramount Plus