This post originally appeared on Autism Speaks Family Services blog.
As soon as the elevator doors opened, we were 3 years old again! All of us—Mom, Dad, Reid, Allie and cousin Tucker—are over 18, but not too old to jockey for the line leader position. There was so much to take in: the mural of Big Bird on the wall, a bright oversized number “4” sculpture, a furry fuchsia service bell, and the high definition photograph of Grover with a flock of real preschoolers.
We maneuvered to take turns standing on Big Bird's footprints in the carpet of the Sesame Workshop lobby. Every time, it triggered a "Welcome" song from the familiar cast. Count, Rosita, Elmo, and Cookie all sang to us from gold-framed flat screens in a friendly montage on the wall. This was thrilling!
Reid, 20 and on the spectrum, had an appointment to interview Joey Mazzarino, Sesame Street’s head writer and puppeteer of Murray Monster, for his Talk Time with Reid Moriarty podcast. The two of them–or three, rather—hit it off instantly. The rest of us thoroughly enjoyed the show! And you can too by clicking here.
Interviewing a Muppet
Reid’s eyes were peeled as Murray came out of a duffel bag and Joey put him on his arm. This was a new eye contact challenge; Reid was unsure where to look or to whom he was listening.
Murray, the enthusiastic, slightly impulsive, furry, orange puppet who usually roves the five boroughs meeting new people, has a lot in common with Reid. Both of them love the limelight, want to meet Miss Piggy, and frequently exclaim, “That’s awesome!!”
With nary a hiccup, Joey fielded Reid’s novel questions as spontaneously as they were delivered. It was easy to see how Joey had won the Emmy precariously balanced on his desk. A masterful voice talent with a fountain of fresh material spewing forth, he was equally adept at relating to Reid, without a minute of special training. If there were Emmy awards bestowed for kindness, transposing grammar on the fly, filling in voids of social nicety with grace, making erroneous comments meaningful, and explaining BIG concepts in simple terms, he would need more shelves to display them all.
Clearly, this man would excel at Floortime! He could follow a child’s lead anywhere, eagerly, energetically, creatively, engaging their mind the whole way. I am glad he’s the one writing sketches for Abby and the rest of the cast to foster inclusion and autism awareness. He embodies the Sesame Workshop Initiative to “See Amazing in All Children.”
Taking Adult Vocation Beyond the (Pizza) Box
Talk Time with Reid Moriarty is a series of 5-7 minute podcasts with people Reid finds interesting, and you might too! An innate emcee, Reid’s talk-show-host style is direct, comedic and strikes a chord of human interest.
His dad and I conceived of the idea on a dinner date. Reid was graduating from high school about to begin folding pizza boxes at the local transition program. We knew our creative kid with a passion to perform, would need something more. I suggested finding a mentor at a local radio station who might give Reid old PSA’s to recite. My husband, Jim, an advertising executive, blew the idea out of the water by suggesting the market appeal of a radio show similar to Car Talk or Anderson Cooper 360. “It could be great content if Reid interviewed real people and we captured the dialogue with all its misfires. We could throw them up on Soundcloud.”
What did we have to lose? Reid practiced with a few neighbors and the lifeguard at our pool then, we asked Mr. Greg Harris, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. His immediately willing reply to our cold call was a great encouragement to continue inviting prominent guests all with the filter of Reid’s motivation to meet them and some mutual interest, be it Mexican food or music.