Sesame Street recently unveiled a new addition to their cast. The four-year old muppet named Julia, who has autism, will officially join the cast in April. Julia loves to sing and can memorize lyrics faster than any of her fellow muppet friends. She startles from loud noises, which sometimes cause her to become emotionally upset. Julia’s character is part of a larger initiative, in which Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that puts on Sesame Street, seeks to raise awareness and increase education about autism. Sesame Workshop plans to expand their autism offerings to include new videos, e-books, and books in both English and Spanish.
The New York Times quotes Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of outreach and educational practices saying, “We wanted to demonstrate some of the characteristics of autism in a positive way.” She also notes that the decision to create Julia’s character as a girl was intentional in an effort to decrease the common misconception that autism only affects boys.
Julia was first introduced in a digital storybook in the fall of 2015. Including her in the Sesame Street television show will undoubtedly increase autism awareness and help children, and people in general, gain a better understanding of how autism can present itself in an individual.
Stacey Gordon, who is a muppet artist residing in Phoenix, plays Julia’s character and has a son on the spectrum. The New York Times quotes Gordon saying, “As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the ‘Sesame Street.” She goes on to explain her immediate interest in Julia’s character.
Julia will officially be introduced to the general public on April 10th – just in time for Autism Awareness Month!