Julia, the show’s first autistic muppet, is welcomed to Sesame Street!

Nina Areyan, Staff Writer

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For almost 50 years now, Sesame Street has been entertaining its viewers both young and old with their classic characters. From Elmo to Cookie Monster to Big Bird and Oscar, Sesame Street’s characters bring and teach both educational and cultural points with its diverse cast. To add to its diversity and inclusive cast, the children’s show is welcoming Julia, the show’s first autistic muppet, on the television series in April.

One of the shows writers, Christine Ferraro, stated : “The big discussion right at the start was, ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?’”. Autism is a neurodevelopmental spectrum disorder. Autism can cause impaired social skills and speech, restricted and repetitive behavior, along with other unique challenges and strengths. The diagnosis of autism has increased exponentially, with a rate of 1 in 68 children living in America. While the diagnosis and counseling is a topic difficult to explain and discuss with parents and adults, it’s even harder with children. However, the show decided to share Julia’s character to their audience and treat her not as “Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism” but simply as “Julia”.

Ferraro goes on to explain how her debut will display the common characteristics of autism spectrum disorder or ASD. Stacey Gordon, Julia’s puppeteer, says Julia’s introduction and character is “huge” and further describes how Julia’s exposure to viewers will help to destigmatize ASD and allow those with the disorder to be treated like anybody else. “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, 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”, she states. It is not yet known whether or not Julia will become a series regular, but  Ferraro is eager to find out. Stay tuned for Julia’s first appearance on HBO and PBS this April.

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Julia, the show’s first autistic muppet, is welcomed to Sesame Street!