Other than being adorable and spunky, like most all muppets are, Julia is also the first muppet with autism.
Sesame Street has always had their finger on the pulse of what’s going on with kids and families. Statistics show that 1 in 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. According to Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact, Julia is meant to represent the diversity of what that diagnosis can mean for each of these children. “We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children. We’re modeling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share.”
Stacey Gordon, the puppeteer that plays Julia, actually has a son with autism and is also a former therapist for children on the spectrum. “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,” she told “60 Minutes.” “They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.”
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Julia actually appeared in an online-only digital storybook next to Big Bird and Abby Cadabby. She’ll make her television debut on April 10th on both PBS and HBO in an episode featuring Big Bird and Elmo meeting Julia and learning how to navigate some of the ways that Julia reacts differently because of her autism.
Sesame Street is a childhood institution, I love their efforts to stay current with the challenges facing kids and families today. Welcome Julia, no doubt you’ll be a fantastic addition to the most popular street around!