Sesame Street debuts muppet with autism

In 2015, the popular children's show "Sesame Street" announced it would be introducing a new character: Julia, an autistic preschooler.

Julia, a red-haired, orange-furred newcomer to Sesame Street's cast of friendly monsters, was introduced in spin-off merchandise to explain the concept of autism to children.

At one point Julia panics because she becomes overstimulated due to emergency sirens, and needs a break to help calm down.

The series airs at 9:30 a.m. and noon on HBO and PBS Kids.

"Parents can look at Julia and tell their children, 'not everybody is the same.' This is normalizing some of the behaviors that can seem quirky to other people, and show it in a positive way", Bender said.

MONDAY, April 10, 2017 (HealthDay News) - A half-century into its run as an iconic staple of children's television, "Sesame Street" will introduce a character with autism to its world-famous neighborhood.

"I think I'd like to be a friend of Julia's too!"

Ms. Westin said Julia is not meant to represent all children on the spectrum, of course, but perhaps someone in the medium range many would be able to relate to. I particularly addressed how inclusive characters in media make children more aware and accepting of people different from them, and can ultimately lead to an increasingly better future. The episode was titled "Meet Julia", and it was incredibly well done. Many fans have expressed their appreciation of Sesame Street's explanation that autism is different for each person.

"That's right. And she might not what you expect - like give you a high five", Alan said.

"The response from the autism community was so tremendous, we felt we needed to do more with Julia, and that led to discussions around bringing her to life as an actual Muppet on the show", Ms. Westin said. She is unique. And autism is not just one thing.

But the show also took pains to show some of Julia's talents, like her gift for painting, and to assure kids that that autistic classmates can be "a lot of fun".

"That's a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism", writer Christine Ferraro said during the "60 Minutes" piece. "Instead, we chose to focus on some of the characteristics and details that reflect some aspects of autism". Julia often repeats word-for-word what she hears others - like her friends, Abbey and Elmo - say.

SOURCES: Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president, U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Street Workshop, New York City; Lisa Goring, chief program and marketing officer, Autism Speaks, New York City; Rose Jochum, director, internal initiatives, national office, Autism Society of America, Bethesda, Md.

  • Salvatore Jensen