Kids on the Block introduces new puppet to teach people about autism

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Kids on the Block is introducing a new character to its puppet cast.

Previously, Kids on the Block had a low-functioning autistic character.

The new puppet was introduced Tuesday for the first time at the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex at WKU.

This addition will include more of the spectrum as the puppet is a highly-functioning autistic character.

“It does teach children that Autism is different for everybody that has it, so not everybody is going to act the same way. It teaches children not to be afraid to be a friend to someone who is different, and to get to know them. We actually challenge children to get to know someone who is different,” said Amanda Guerra, director of programs and puppeteer.

Each person on the spectrum is different and functions differently in all kinds of situations.

“I sometimes get a bit anxious, I sometimes blow things out of proportion, or get overly focused on one topic,” said Jacob Brennenstuhl, who works for Kids on the Block and is a highly-functioning person with autism.

The new puppet, Jacob Phillip, shares his name. The name Phillip, is taken from a board member’s son who also is a highly-functioning person with autism.

The non-profit’s goal is to help children understand people who are different from them.

“A lot of the times children will pick on others because they don’t know how they’re different and they don’t know why. They don’t understand. So if we are able to teach them why someone does something a certain way or how something works with a person with a disability, then they will have more understanding and they’ll be more compassionate with people with those disabilities,” said Guerra.

“Same things as everyone else, everyone wants to be understood, everyone wants friends. It’s just a little bit harder to understand someone with autism and their peers might need a little more help with that,” Brennenstuhl said.