Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Culture | By Antonia Gonzales

Sesame Street gets a new character - Julia the Muppet with AUTISM

A new muppet named Julia is coming to join the gang at Sesame Street, the series' first character with autism.

"Basically, in terms of vulnerable families, we're looking at families who may have particular stressors in their lives that are impacting their young children", Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for USA social impact at parent company Sesame Workshop, explained.

As for other characters, the show conducted extensive research, including consultations with educators and child psychologists, and in this case autism organizations, to understand how best to normalize autism for non-autistic children.

"We felt that creating a character who was autistic would allow children to identify her but equally important, it would allow us to model for all children the differences and commonalities of a child with autism".

"We realized if we brought her to life appearing in Sesame Street on air as well, she would have even more impact [and] be able to reach even more children", Westin told NPR. "How do we talk about autism?'" one of the show's writers, Christine Ferraro, told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl, CNN reported.

"There is an expression that goes, "If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism".

Julia, the first muppet with autism.

The puppeteer who will control Julia's actions, Stacey Gordon, has a son with autism. When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him.

In her debut episode, Julia is expected to demonstrate some common characteristics of autism.

That all ends now, as Julia is about to become a regular member of the Sesame Street cast.

Designers use 2 sets of arms for Julia, who uses them to express emotions.

In the introductory segment, Julia is having fun with Abby and Elmo when Big Bird walks up.

Her name is Julia - a lovable, red-haired muppet who, just like 1 in 68 American children, happens to be on the autism spectrum. 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".

But maybe Julia said it best when Stahl asked if she was enjoying her new friends. But while she represents the full range of children on the spectrum, she isn't meant to typify each one of them: "Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we're looking at children with autism", Betancourt says.

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