LIFE

‘Sesame Street’ Sends Birthday Surprise To Fan With Autism

by Anna Halkidis
Anna is a native New Yorker who loves concerts, travel, good coffee, and her Jack Russell terrier, Charlie. She’s a multimedia journalist who earned her master’s degree from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Her true passion for telling stories keeps her inspired.

Lisa Medlyn knew the one thing that would delight her daughter on her milestone 16th birthday: Sesame Street.

Tori Medlyn, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age and is considered nonverbal, has always found comfort in the longtime PBS series.

“It’s funny because she doesn’t speak well, but she can type and so she always Googles Sesame Street video clips on YouTube,” the Arizona mom told LittleThings. “She knows how to Google all her favorite episodes, and watch them over and over again.”

In turn, Lisa reached out to Sesame Street in hopes that the company would at least send Tori a birthday card. Six months later, Lisa was stunned when they replied to her email asking for more information about Tori in order to put together a special surprise.

And just in time for Tori’s birthday on November 28, they sent her a personalized “Happy Birthday” video featuring none other than Elmo. The Muppet spoke about some of Tori’s beloved things, including swimming and pasta, and even performed one of her favorite songs from the show, “Sing.” A bag with a whole bunch of Sesame Street–themed goodies was also sent.

The surprise came about a month after the company launched an autism initiative in October (Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children) to bring awareness to the condition affecting about one in 68 births in the United States. Aside from providing families, teachers, and caregivers with important information about autism, the initiative also introduced a character with autism, Julia.

The moment meant the world to Tori, as well as her mom.

“The reason I emailed them is there are so many missed opportunities when you have a kid with special needs,” Lisa said. “So it was really awesome because it was one of those times in our life that we all had something to look forward to. … This is one thing that got to be just for her.”

Read more of Tori’s incredible story and watch the special video (originally shared on Lisa’s YouTube page) below.

Lisa Medlyn

Shortly after her first birthday, Tori stopped communicating verbally. Her mom and dad, Cole and Lisa Medlyn, took her to get checked out. Doctors performed an MRI and found a cyst in her brain.

After several surgeries to help the condition, Tori was also diagnosed with autism.

Lisa Medlyn

“She’s considered nonverbal. She can say words, but she can’t put together complete sentences or complete thoughts, so if she wants something, the most you’ll get is ‘dinner please’ or ‘help please,'” Lisa told LittleThings. “So developmentally she’s probably like a 2 to 5 year old.”

Lisa Medlyn

Throughout it all, Tori has found comfort watching the famous Muppets of Sesame Street. Tori especially loves the music and often watches her favorite clips on YouTube.

Lisa Medlyn

“She’s been watching Sesame Street for so many years because that’s what she kind of zoned in on with the autism at a young age,” said Lisa, who’s also mom to Tori’s sister, Kayla Medlyn, 12, and brother, Nathan Medlyn, 8.

In turn, her 16th birthday was Sesame Street–themed and made even more special with the unexpected Elmo surprise shown in the video below.

“I was so surprised,” said Lisa. “They were nothing short of being super-nice.”

Lisa Medlyn

Tori is one in more than 3.5 million people in the United States who have autism. Please SHARE her touching story to help spread awareness!

Due to restrictions, this video cannot
be viewed in your region.