Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Culture | By Ray Hoffman

Twitter hails courageous and progressive Sesame Street for new autistic Muppet Julia

Twitter hails courageous and progressive Sesame Street for new autistic Muppet Julia

She was first introduced in 2015 as part of an exclusive online digital storybook that had a story called "Sesame Street and Autism: See the unbelievable in All Children".

One in 68 children in the US has autism, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, up 30% from 2012 estimates.

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.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, one of the show's writers, Christine Ferraro, expressed her desire for Julia to be seen not as the puppet with autism, but as a friend and hopefully, a Sesame Street regular.

"It's tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism", Ferraro said. To get children educated at such a young age about autism is a fantastic leap forward. In another scene, during a game of tag, Julia starts jumping up and down with excitement - the rest of the muppets join in, and just like that the game is changed to suit Julia in a natural way. Betancourt said one in 68 children in the United States had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Confused, Big Bird thinks "that maybe she didn't like me". Big Bird told Stahl he had initially been perturbed by Julia's lack of response.

Julia is set to make her formal debut in the next season of Sesame Street, specifically in the episode titled Meet Julia, which will air on April 10, 2017 on PBS and HBO.

"We're really pleased to see a popular TV show like Sesame Street introducing an autistic character".

Julia was previously included in Sesame's books and digital offerings, and her character has been in development for about three years.

"We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird", Elmo said.

Julia is played by puppeteer Stacey Gordon, who told the Associated Press her 13-year-old son also has autism. "The initiative was so well-received, Sesame [Workshop] chose to bring Julia to the broadcast, which meant designing a new Muppet".

The four friends then learn how to play together so they all have fun and feel comfortable.

The team was also mindful that the character of Julia was not a "one size fits all". It's the first time in a decade that the classic children's show has introduced a new character.

Elmo explains that it takes Julia "a little longer to do things".

"I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism", the writer said.

In her first screen appearance, Julia is at first misunderstood by Big Bird, who thinks Julia ignores him on goal.

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