Sesame Street is to introduce a new character. Julia, a young Muppet with red hair and bright green eyes, also has autism. She is being introduced to help “reduce the stigma” attached to the condition, programme bosses said.
Julia made her first appearance in October 2015 in an online Digital Storybook story called Sesame Street and Autism: See the amazing in all children. She is set to make her debut on the long-running children’s show in April, and will be introduced to Big Bird by friends Elmo and Abby Cadabby.
Julia’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, whose son is autistic, said the creation of an autistic muppet is “huge”.
“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 age,” she told 60 Minutes.
Christine Ferraro, a writer for Sesame Street added, “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”
To develop Julia, the team worked closely with autism organisations, educators, and families to decide the best way to portray a child with autism, including how to explain autism at a pre-school level.
In her debut episode, Julia will demonstrate some common characteristics. When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him. Confused, Big Bird thinks “that maybe she didn’t like me”. But the other muppets tell him: “She does things just a little differently.”
At this point it’s not known if Julia will become a major character on the show, but Ms Ferraro is keen.
“I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism,” she said. “I would like her to be just Julia.”