20

Mar

Sesame Street Adds Character With Autism

Julia Muppet

Iconic children’s show Sesame Street is being applauded for adding a new character with autism to its roster.

Julia makes her debut on the show in April. The new character has red hair and clutches a bunny in her hand. Although the characteristics of autism are widely varying from person to person, the show’s creators express issues that kids with autism often deal with, such as a reluctance to social interaction.

In one episode, Julia is hesitant to shake Big Bird’s hand. Big Bird is upset because he feels that Julia may not like him, but Elmo explains that Julia has autism and “does things a little differently.” She also becomes extremely excited during a game and displays sensitivity to loud noises.

The show’s writers and creators met with several organizations that serve families with autism in order to find out how to best portray Julia on the show.

“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism,” writer Christine Ferraro told 60 Minutes. “There’s a saying that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

The character is especially poignant for Julia’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, who has a son of autism. She believes that Julia will provide immense benefit in exposing kids to autism at an early age and making them understand that it’s nothing to be afraid of.

“Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened,” Gordon told 60 Minutes. And [they] would have known that he plays in a different way, and that that’s okay.”