Emily Perl Kingsley
photo by Nancy Ney
Award Winning Writer
Emily Perl Kingsley broke into television in 1963 doing Script Research for the CBS series EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE, starring George C. Scott. This was the start of a series of what she calls “dream jobs” including work on John Gielgud’s NBC-TV special AGES OF MAN and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. In 1967 she became Associate Producer of the ABC-TV game show EVERYBODY’S TALKING. Two years later, she did the film research and assisted in editing a feature-length documentary on Malcolm X which was distributed in theaters (the film which was later adapted by Spike Lee into a major motion picture).
In 1970 Ms. Kingsley joined the Children’s Television Workshop as a writer for SESAME STREET. She has been writing scripts and songs for the popular children’s television show ever since and, in addition, has written about 20 children’s books, many home videos (ELMO LEARNS TO SHARE, ELMO SAYS BOO and several editions of ELMO’S WORLD) and many of her songs appear on Sesame Street record albums, CDs and tape cassettes. She has also written material for the CD-ROM versions of 101 DALMATIANS and THE LITTLE MERMAID for Disney Interactive.
She has received 21 Emmy Awards and 22 additional Emmy nominations for her work on SESAME STREET. Recently the writers of Sesame Street were congratulated by the Writers’ Guild of America for writing one of the 100 Best Written TV Series in history.
The mother of a child with Down Syndrome, Ms. Kingsley is a frequent lecturer on Down syndrome and disability rights. In 1976 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Down Syndrome Congress and was chairperson of their Adoption Committee. She served on the Board for nine years. She is co-chairperson of the Parent Assistance Committee on Down Syndrome of Westchester County and has served as a member of the Westchester County Committee for the Disabled as well as the National Media Council on Disability, a national committee working to improve the ways in which people with disabilities are portrayed in the media. She currently serves on the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, helping to encourage people with disabilities in all aspects of the media.
The story of her son, Jason, was the subject of an hour-long drama special, THIS IS MY SON, on NBC-TV in 1977. THIS IS MY SON was written by Allan Sloane, Ms. Kingsley’s collaborator on the TV movie KIDS LIKE THESE.
Jason has appeared dozens of times on SESAME STREET, was featured on ALL MY CHILDREN and in December 1984 he starred in a full-length episode of the ABC-TV series THE FALL GUY with Lee Majors. In 1997 he guest-starred in an episode of TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL.
Ms. Kingsley was instrumental in helping to accomplish the comfortable integration of mentally and physically disabled children and adults into the format of SESAME STREET. She has written much of the material for the show using children and performers who have disabilities, including Linda Bove, the Little Theatre of the Deaf, Itzhak Perlman, Christopher Reeve, and Andrea Bocelli, among others.
In 1980 she received an award from the National Theatre of the Deaf in recognition of her work for the deaf and hearing-impaired.
In October 1994, she received an EDI Award from the National Easter Seal Society in recognition of her Sesame Street scripts which have treated disability issues and enhanced the “equality, dignity and independence” of individuals with disabilities. She received another EDI Award and a Grand EDI Award in October 1995 for a Sesame Street script about wheelchair accessibility. She received yet another EDI Award in October 1997 for a Sesame Street show which featured a wheelchair ballet.
In 1983 THE DAILY NEWS selected Ms. Kingsley as one of the Ten Volunteer Women of the Year. In 1984 she received the Media Award from the State of Ohio Department of Disability. In November 1985, she received the National Down Syndrome Congress’s Exceptional Meritorious Service Award.
In March, 1987, the entire Kingsley family was honored at the Annual Friends of the Retarded Ball held by the Westchester Association for Retarded Citizens. On that occasion, March 21, 1987 was proclaimed “Charles, Emily and Jason Kingsley Day” in Westchester County by order of County Executive Andrew P. O’Rourke.
In 1988, Ms. Kingsley received the 1988 Humanitarian Award from the Girl Scouts of America, Westchester/Putnam Division, the Exceptional Service Award from the New Jersey Association for Retarded Citizens, the Distinguished Service Award from ARC/Union County and the Kathleen Arneson Award from the People-to-People Committee for the Handicapped. In March 1989 she was honored with the Humanitarian Award from the Association for Children with Down Syndrome. In June 1989 she received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the State of New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council.
In 1990, Charles and Emily Kingsley were given the first annual “Kingsley Award” by the Down Syndrome Parent Support Group of Tampa, Florida. This award, named for the Kingsleys, will be given each year to acknowledge extraordinary service to mankind by a family.
In July 1990, the Kingsley family received the Special Achievement Award for Families from the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation. This award recognized the family for “contributing in an extraordinary way to improving the quality of life of people with mental retardation.” The award was presented at the gala celebration of the 100th birthday of Mrs. Rose Kennedy at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.
Ms. Kingsley, in collaboration with Allan Sloane, co-authored a teleplay for a two-hour Movie-For-Television called ‘KIDS LIKE THESE,’ which dealt with her family’s experiences raising a child with Down syndrome. Tyne Daly, Richard Crenna and Martin Balsam and five youngsters, all of whom have Down syndrome, starred in this film which aired on CBS-TV on November 8, 1987 and on September 19, 1988.
KIDS LIKE THESE received the prestigious humanitarian award, the 1988 Christopher Award, as well as the 1988 National Easter Seals Communication Award. It won First Prize (Dramatic Category) at the Rehabilitation International Film Festival in Tokyo, Japan in 1988. In addition, KIDS LIKE THESE won the 1988 ARC of Excellence Award from the Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States, the Media Award from the National Down Syndrome Congress and the Community Service Award of Outstanding Service Through Media from the Association for Retarded Citizens of Norfolk, Virginia. It was voted Best Movie-of-the-Week at the 1988 Media Access Awards.
Since its initial airings on CBS-TV, KIDS LIKE THESE is shown frequently on the LIFETIME Cable Network, on the E! Cable Network and in many foreign countries. In 2007 Ms. Kingsley was given the Maverick Award at the SPROUT Film Festival in New York City for KIDS LIKE THESE and her lifetime of commitment to disability issues in film and television.
Ms. Kingsley was the on-camera host of a Westchester County biweekly cable-TV show called FAMILY FORUM ON DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES.
She has also co-authored, with Barbara Gibbs Levitz, a documentary film called EMPLOY•ABILITY, narrated by James Earl Jones and designed to encourage employment of individuals with developmental disabilities. EMPLOY•ABILITY was produced and sponsored by the Woolworth Corporation and the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
EMPLOY•ABILITY won a Gold Medal at the Questar Awards International Competition, a Bronze Plaque at the 41st Annual Columbus International Film and Video Festival, an EDI Award from the National Easter Seals Society, a Certificate of Creative Excellence from the US International Film and Video Festival, the New York Festivals Finalist Award and the Media Award from the National Down Syndrome Congress.
In 2007, Ms. Kingsley contributed a chapter for FACTS OF LIFE… AND MORE, a book about sexuality and individuals with developmental disabilities. This book was voted one of 2007’s Best Books for Parents by Exceptional Parent Magazine. In 2008, Ms. Kingsley’s video LEARNING IS EVERYWHERE won a Gold Medal at the New York Video/Film Festival.
Ms. Kingsley is the author of the inspirational essay WELCOME TO HOLLAND which has been reprinted in many languages and in many forms all over the world. Dear Abby runs this piece every October to commemorate National Down Syndrome Awareness Month and it has been reprinted in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE MOTHER’S SOUL and dozens of other books.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND has been reprinted by many disability groups and appears on over 200 separate websites on the World Wide Web. It has been used as the theme for several disability conferences, was worked into a patchwork quilt and is the subject of a series of oil paintings. It has been set to music both as a folk song by David Ross and as a choral cantata by composer Terrence Minogue which was performed at a concert in Sacramento, California. Recently a performance piece for concert band, based on WELCOME TO HOLLAND, was written by Steven Barton. The latest is a series of solo guitar pieces, written by Nunzio Roselli.
Recently Ms. Kingsley was appointed to serve on the Advisory Board for a new partnership formed between Sesame Street and Special Olympics. She has also been appointed to the Advisory Board of the Anti-Defamation League Miller Early Childhood Initiative to combat prejudice and hate.
In March 2006 Ms. Kingsley was honored in Los Angeles with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades of work promoting understanding and inclusion of people with disabilities in the media.
Ms. Kingsley has been invited to serve on the Honorary Board of Advisors of the National Down Syndrome Society. She also serves on the steering committee for DEAL – Disability in Entertainment and the Arts Link, a committee of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, a national organization working to encourage increased visibility of people with disabilities in the media. She has recently joined the Adult Task Force of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation
In October 2008 Ms. Kingsley received the Secretary’s Highest Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in recognition of her 39 years of spearheading the inclusion of individuals with disabilities on Sesame Street in the United States and 140 countries around the world.
Ms. Kingsley lives in Briarcliff Manor, New York with her partner, John Stadler MD. Two stepsons, Glenn and Todd, are grown and married. She has six grandchildren.