Julia, A New Muppet With Autism, Finds Her Way To Sesame Street

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Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop/ Zach Hyman

While the fact that Julia, is “Sesame Street’s” first new Muppet in a decade is certainly newsworthy, that is not the only thing that makes her special. The cheery, green-eyed 4-year-old, who has autism, is also here to expose young kids to children with autistic traits and teach them about acceptance.

Julia, who will make her television debut on April 10, 2017, came to life as an illustration in Sesame’s Digital Storybook story, “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.” Designed to educate the public about autism, it was an instant hit. Families quickly connected with the little red-haired girl who walked around with a stuffed bunny. Sherrie Westin, an executive vice president at Sesame Workshop who oversaw the initiative, says, her favorite feedback came from a mother who used Julia to explain to her autistic daughter what the condition meant, prompting the daughter to say: “So I’m amazing, too, right?”

Image Credit: Autismspeaks.org

The creators decided to bring the Muppet on air so that she would be able to reach millions more kids and families. However, as autism looks different in everyone, it can be tricky to introduce. To discover how best to normalize and convey it, Sesame Workshop consulted with over 250 educators, psychologists, and autism organizations.

In Julia’s first episode viewers will observe common scenarios for people with autism and similar disorders. For example, when the other Muppets want to play tag, Julia starts jumping up and down with excitement. Instead of berating her, group starts jumping with her and it becomes a new game. And when Julia first meets Big Bird, she ignores him. At first, Big Bird’s feelings are hurt, but he learns that doesn’t mean she dislikes him — she just communicates with strangers in a different way.

Though she may get distracted easily, be sensitive to loud noises, and repeat what others say, Julia isn’t defined by autism. Along with being one of Elmo’s friends, the red-haired puppet is artistic, likes to pick flowers, enjoys playing with Abby Cadabby, and loves to sing with the rest of the gang. Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro says, “I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism . . . I would like her to be just Julia.”

Stacey Gordon, Julia’s puppeteer who has an autistic son, says, “It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like.” She wishes her son’s friends had been able to see a character like Julia when they were young. Though not clear if the cheery new Muppet will become a permanent character, Julia is scheduled to appear in two episodes this season.

Photo Credit: Sesame Workshop/ Zach Hyman

Autism spectrum disorder, which is characterized by challenges with social skills, speech, and nonverbal communication, affects 1 in 68 children in the United States and scores more worldwide. Sadly, over 63 percent of kids with autism are bullied. Experts believe this is caused by a lack of understanding of the affliction, especially among children. Hopefully, by watching Julia, kids will see that everyone should be treated equally and appreciated for their own special gifts and behavior.

Resources: NPR.org, Dailymail.co.uk, cnn.com

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  • mllystar
    mllystar4 months
    oh i wondered why she acted different lol, i love sesame street and watch it everday! (and before youre like "omg ur so mean shes not weird UGHH" bro i have autism and yes, we do act "weird"
    • elias345543
      elias34554310 months
      I have autism so I made a presentation about autism
      • songunicorn17
        songunicorn17almost 2 years
        My brother has autism he loves this show! He likes Elmo! I like Julia she is playful! It was a good thing that Seasme Street is teaching kids about autisim! We should be kind to people who are autistic! Here is a tip, do you want to make friends with a autistic person do what they like! They may not answer you right away. But just be patient. They may not talk much but if they are upset they might flap there hands. Try to do what they say it is hard for them when things might not go their way. Also do not tease them that are kids too! No diffrence!
        • shywolfiecrys
          shywolfiecrysover 2 years
          Stay nice
          • unipug2
            unipug2almost 3 years
            That is unfair that kids with autism get bullied. Stay nice
          • renegade5
            renegade5about 3 years
            That's amazing sesame street realy are making a difference by teaching kids about autism spectrum disorder
            • searchlight
              searchlightover 3 years
              This is amazing I will really help my friend and cousin who have autism! I wish I could tell them about it tho...
              • lolatheute
                lolatheuteover 3 years
                I think that this is a really awesome and amazing thing that sesame street did. 😊😊😊
                • earthwarm sallyalmost 4 years
                  love this! I wish other people can be more kind tho, to autistic kids..including everyone! :c but some people don't have the heart to. But we do, right?
                  • soldier 76almost 4 years
                    what? is this working?