Sesame Street is about to get a new friend joining the mix. Julia is a new muppet that will be joining Elmo and the rest of the Sesame Street gang.
Her mission is to teach children about acceptance. Julia’s character has autism and the purpose of her character is to fight stigmas that are associated with autism. A Sesame Street writer of more than two decades, Christine Ferraro, told Lesly Stahl on 60 minutes that Julia’s meant to help children further understand children with autism.
‘It’s tricky because Autism is not one thing because it is different for every single person has autism. There is an expression that goes, “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism,”‘ Ferraro told Stahl. Julia will be one of the gang, the point is for her to be treated like everyone else instead of being an outsider.
In her first appearance in the show, she’s welcomed by Big Bird who offers his wing to greet Julia who’s being introduced in the new and upcoming season. In this moment however she doesn’t respond and it will be a teaching moment for the characters of the show. Sesame Street worked with organisations that specialise in Autism such as Autism Self Advocacy and Autism Speaks to Best Personify traits of a child with Autism.
The gang decide to play tag together at one moment in the episode and Julia is so excited that she jumps up and down. ‘That’s a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism,’ Ferarro said. Tag then turns into all the kids jumping up and down with Julia, ‘So it was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation, they can meet her where she is,’ Ferraro said.
They’ve done their research to ensure that they help children understand their message and consulted with many organisations, educators, and child psychologists on how to normalise autism. The puppeteer who controls Julie also has an autistic child. ‘It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like,’ she told ’60 Minutes.
‘Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviours through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened.’ When asked if Julie would be a new major character she answered with ‘I would love her to be! I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism,’ she added. ‘I would like her to be just Julia.’