'Sesame Street' introduces Julia, a new character who has autism

Carla Harmon
March 20, 2017

There's a new Muppet on the block!

A brand new character will be joining Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and Elmo on childhood favourite television show Sesame Street- Julia, the very first autistic muppet.

The rest of Stahl's segment gives the basic origin story for "Sesame Street" and includes an interview with founder Joan Ganz Cooney, who first researched the idea in the 1960s at the request of the Carnegie Corporation.

That's why I was so excited two years ago when Sesame Street announced the launch of Julia, the show's first autistic character, in an online series for autistic kids.

"She's one of the kids, she's one of the gang", said Rose Jochum, director of internal initiatives at the Autism Society of America, which helped Sesame Street develop the new muppet, on NPR. She'll be hesitant to shake the friendly yellow giant's hand, but Elmo explains to Big Bird that since Julia has autism, "sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things".

The cool thing about Julia is she has Autism, a condition which means she sees the world a bit differently to other people. He's sad and anxious that Julia doesn't like him, but Elmo explains that Julia has autism so she "does things a little differently".

One in 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sesame Street has always had progressive motivations. "How do we talk about autism?'" Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro told the CBS News show 60 Minutes.

Julia's puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, happens to be the mother of an autistic son. "There is an expression that goes, 'If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism, '" Ferraro said.

Julia, chuckling, then displays a different-but-fun way of playing tag, and everyone joins in. She has autism and, when speaking, she echoes her friend's words.

"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", Gordon continued, "they might not have been frightened. I'm just hoping to bring her the heart".

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