Sesame Street has won hearts for decades and across generations. Its light-hearted themes have entertained and educated children of all ages. This is the main reason why the show has been running for so long. Recently, it just gave viewers another reason to love it more. Sesame Street introduced Julia, the first muppet with Autism, in an effort to help kids and parents relate and understand the condition more.
Who is Julia?
At first look, Julia looks like your typical Sesame Street muppet. She is a four-year-old girl with bright orange hair and big green eyes. She is close friends with Elmo and Abby Cadabby.
Julia was first introduced in the digital storybook “We’re Amazing, 1,2,3!” Because of the positive response, she was officially introduced as a muppet in episode 4715. While she looks like the typical character, there is something special about Julia — she is autistic. However, none of her pals mind. She is loved just like any other character on the show.
What Makes Her Special?
It is not her autism that makes her special. It is how she makes people from the same situation feel accepted and loved. While kids who are the same situation as hers sometimes get rejected or bullied; here, she is one of the gang.
In one instance, Julia was about to play a game with pals Abby, Grover and Oscar the Grouch. They were challenging each other to spot objects that are shaped like squares, circles or rectangles. Not too surprisingly, Julia plays along and is even exceptionally good. Abby tells Grover that they are lucky to have Julia on their team since she is really good at finding shapes.
Where Did She Come From?
While relatively new to the show, Julia has been loved by kids and parents since 2015. Julia has actually existed in print and digital illustrations and is the centerpiece by the team called “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.”
She has been the subject of a storybook that was released with videos, an app and e-books. The initiative was to promote a better understanding of what the group describes as “a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.”
Developing Julia was not easy. It required years of consultations with organizations and experts within the autism community. In the US alone, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism. Jeannette Betancourt, Sesame’s senior vice president of US Social Impact, says that they wanted to promote a better understanding of autism and reduce the stigma.
Who Plays Julia?
When Stacey Gordon first learned about Julia, she immediately thought that “If she’s ever a puppet, I want to be Julia!” Of course, she won the part. Gordon is a Phoenix-based puppeteer who performs and teaches to the public.
She herself has a son with autism. Before she had a family of her own, she was a therapist for kids. While she thought that she had slim chances of landing her dream role in Julia, her friends in the puppeteering world were happy to help. After submitting audition tapes, she was hired.
Julia first appeared on the show as an official cast member on April 10. As expected, she has been getting a lot of love from the production team and the viewers. A post on CBS News shows the excitement for Julia’s debut. Viewers also applauded Sesame Street for working cautiously with experts so that they can present Julia accurately and with enough sensitivity. Julia is expected to grow in the show, so there will be more challenges ahead as her character develops.
On her TV debut, viewers first see Julia coloring with Abby, Elmo and their human friend Alan at Hooper’s Store. Big Bird stops by to introduce himself and this are when her friends immediately explain her condition. Alan tells Big Bird that Julia “might not answer you right away” and the large yellow feathered friend totally understands, without fussing over it. Later, while playing, Julia gets upset by the sound a police siren, but her buddies immediately comfort her and wait for her to calm down. “Sesame Street” airs Mondays on HBO and HBO Family.