Julia has been a work in progress since 2015 when she was first announced. (Autism in 2015)
Christine Ferraro, a writer on Sesame Street for 25 years, along with the rest of the staff talked about how they realised that autism was something that needed to be addressed. They decided they wanted to teach kids more about people with autism, who they probably will interact with at school, playgrounds, supermarkets etc.
“So that when they encounter them in their real life it’s familiar. And they see that these — these can be their friends too.”
Julia (pictured) is really nice and loves to sing. Julia also doesn’t react the way the other
muppets do. For example, when the rest of the muppets introduce themselves, Julia doesn’t respond, she is sensitive to loud noises, and she jumps up and down when she is excited; the rest of the muppets join her, and make a game out of it.
Watch this video from the show where Julia is flapping her arms, and how it is turned into something positive.
Julia is brought to life by puppeteer Stacey Gordon. Stacey is a mother of a son with autism
. She believes that “It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like.” Julia isn’t exactly a new face — she was first introduced in October 2015 as a digital Muppet through the organization’s broader autism initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. Sesame Workshop has worked with more than 250 autism experts and organisations to help with its See Amazing initiative. Stacey also draws from her own experiences with her son to portray Julia accurately.
Sesame Street viewers will see Julia get upset by loud sirens, she will have trouble communicating with Big Bird when they first meet, leading Big Bird to think Julia doesn’t like him.
I hope that, by incorporating a character from the spectrum into a beloved children’s show, we will be setting a foundation on which parents and teachers can build autism awareness on. Awareness from a young age about a neighbouring kid, a class
mate or even a stranger at a shop is what will slowly make the autism stigma fade.
My hope is not to eradicate autism, it is to make it visible. Autism is here to stay therefore, when we fight, we do not fight in spite of it but we fight through it.
Sesame Street’s “Meet Julia” episode will air April 10 on HBO and PBS KIDS in the U.S., as well as Cartoonito UK, ABC Australia and Televisa in Mexico. A more global rollout of the episode is planned for later this year.