Julia, a new Muppet with autism, has found her way to Sesame Street.
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) March 20, 2017
Julia is already featured in Sesame Street books, but will join the children’s series — which airs on HBO and PBS — in April. Julia’s first episode will help explain autism to children.
Longtime Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro said the show worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics Julia should have and how best to normalize autism for all children.
More: Earlier Diagnoses of Autism Could Mean More Effective Treatment
She told Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes, “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”
The character of Big Bird also talked to Stahl about the first interaction he had with Julia in which she doesn’t pay attention to him.
“I thought that maybe she didn’t like me,” said Big Bird.
“Yeah, but you know, we had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird,” Elmo added. ” It’s just that Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.”
That Elmo has always been such a smart Muppet.
Stahl points out in her piece that, with autism on the rise, “[t]he chances of a little kid 2, 3, 4 years old having some kind of a relationship with another kid with autism is pretty high.”
Eventually, the goal is for Julia not to be known as the Muppet with autism but just another character on Sesame Street. The show tweeted, “Through Julia, we aim to show that all kids are amazing, and that all kids can be friends.”
Sesame Street has never been a show that shied away from tough topics. Even back in 1983, when the beloved Mr. Hooper died, the series tackled it head on. Children want to make sense of their world. And I’m confident this will help many young kids (including my own) better understand this disorder. And I bet some adults too.