To the surprise of many “Sesame Street” fans, next month a new muppet will make her appearance on the show. And her name is Julia. The new green eyed, red hair character is a loving spirit that comes with something else that is a first for the show, she has autism, a common developmental disorder that impacts roughly a quarter million adults and children every year.
Julia was first introduced to audiences this past weekend in a series of HBO and YouTube advertisements that addressed the difficulties associated with Autism which include communication challenges and tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors,Autism Speaks said.
In one of the one minute long videos, Julia sings “Sunny Days” with her friend Abby Cadabby.
And in another clip she can be seen playing “Boing Boing Tag” with her friend Abby.
The show producers also introduce viewers to Julia and autism in a kid friendly way by including her best friends Abby and Elmo in a short conversation about the subject.
Senior writer from HBO’s “Sesame Street” Christine Ferraro told “60 Minutes” the meaning behind the character. First saying that, Julia is complex because “autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.” Explaining that, “When (children) encounter (someone autistic) in their real life it’s familiar. And they see that these kids can be their friends too.”
The puppeteer for Julia will be Stacey Gordon, a mother of a son with autism who has experienced first hand what it is like for kids with the disorder. And she states that this move comes with so much meaning for her because, “[This] means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion … and like her.”
“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. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that’s OK.”
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