Meet Julia: Sesame Street's newest character is autistic
Today audiences were introduced to a new Muppet teaching kids how to get to Sesame Street, and her name is Julia.
Julia has orange hair, a favorite toy named Fluffster, and autism.
The orange-haired character was introduced last year on the "Sesame Street" web series but made her debut on the broadcast show today to help observe Autism Awareness Month. The series airs at 9:30 a.m. and noon on HBO and PBS Kids.
“For years, families of children with autism have asked us to address the issue. We heard a call to use our expertise and characters to build a bridge between the autism and neurotypical communities,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, SVP of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. “So many partners, advisors, and organizations have contributed to the success of this initiative, and we are thrilled to have the benefit of this collaboration as we launch this latest chapter.”
When Elmo and Abby Cadabby introduce Julia to Big Bird during her first appearance on the show, she's hesitant to shake his hand. Elmo explains to Big Bird that Julia has autism and that "sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things." Afterward, the four learn to interact and play together in a new way.
Christine Ferraro, the writer of the “Meet Julia” episode, has relatives with autism, and Stacey Gordon, the puppeteer who plays Julia, is the mother of a child with autism, according to a press release from Sesame Workshop.
Julia's introduction is part of the company's autism initiative, "Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children," designed to serve autistic children and their families and increase awareness and understanding of autism. New digital videos, books, and ebooks add to the "See Amazing In All Children"library, with the collection available in both English and Spanish.
"Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centerpiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism," said Sherrie Westin, EVP of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. "The response from the autism community to 'See Amazing in all Children' has been extraordinary, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of autism, as part of our mission of helping all children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder."
Sesame Workshop has commissioned new research through Georgetown University Medical Center and Children’s National Health System, evaluating the impact of "Sesame Street and Autism" on the autism community and beyond. Preliminary findings will be announced later this month.
Families who missed the episode, "Meet Julia," can find segments available at YouTube, HBO, PBS KIDS and sesamestreet.org/autism.