Sesame Street debuts character with autism

Sesame Street writers have chose to have the other characters immediately include Julia into their "gang", rather than leave her out as sadly some autistic children are.

"Yeah, but you know, we had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird", the Elmo character added".

Sesame Street's newest muppet Julia, a 4-year-old girl with autism, will appear in an episode of the show for the first time next month, becoming the latest character to teach young viewers about diversity. Sesame Workshop has spent five years consulting with 250 organizations and experts within the autism community - including Autism Speaks and the Autism Society of America. Stacy Gordon is the veteran puppeteer playing Julia, and she also has a son with autism.

ARC, an autism advocacy group based in Waltham, said Sesame Street's Julia will teach people how to interact with someone with autism. Her memory is better than most people's, and she has excellent drawing skills.

"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", she told 60 Minutes.

"Kids are resilient beings and they can look past differences", Gardner said.

The last major character to be added to the "Sesame Street" TV lineup was Abby Cadabby in 2006. Her name is Julia and she has autism. About 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "How do we talk about autism?,'" one of the show's writers, Christine Ferraro, told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl.

In her first episode on Sesame Street Julia ignores Big Bird when she is first introduced to him.

Although it's not clear whether Julia will become a major character, "I would love her to be", Ferarro confessed. "It will help kids with autism be able to identify with a character and it will also play an important role in destigmatizing autism". At first the giant yellow bird thinks "maybe she didn't like me", but the other puppets reassure him that Julia "does things just a little differently".

Betancourt, in a press release, said families affected by autism have appealed to "Sesame Street" for years to address the condition.

  • Salvatore Jensen