Back in 2015, “Sesame Street” made history with the creation of the new muppet, Julia, the first character on the show with autism. Well, now she’s going to make her debut appearance sometime in April, as was revealed on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes.
Julia, a red-haired muppet originally appeared in “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” as part of a new initiative on “Sesame Street” to be more inclusive. In the U.S., 1 in 68 American children were diagnosed with with autism, and Julia will represent this demographic–which is much needed, as it not only raises awareness, but normalizes autism. According to Autism Society, 3.5 million people live with autism in the U.S., which only illustrates the point that the shows kids watch should reflect the world we live in.
Christine Ferraro, writer for Sesame Street for 25 years, told CBS News’ 60 Minutes how difficult it was to actually cast Julia, as Ferraro didn’t want to tokenize Julia as the “character with autism,” stating:
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing … it is different for every single person who has autism. There is an expression that goes, ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.’”
Stacey Gordon, who has a child with autism, is the puppeteer who plays Julia. She told CBS that she used her son’s experiences as a fodder for how Julia acts:
“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.”
The cast of the show wants Julia to become a regular character. I hope this is the case, as her presence on the show could change the lives of thousands of children, whether they have autism or not.