In 2015, the long-running children’s show, Sesame Street, did something incredible: they introduced a new character named Julia, who was on the spectrum. This was part of a campaign, “See the Amazing in All Children,” which aimed to normalize autism and educate little ones that people on the spectrum are like everyone else…but think and do things a little differently.
As cool and exciting as this development was, several of you voiced the same concern that I, myself had: that Julia was just a character in a digital storybook rather than a permanent character on the show. While the storybook was a fantastic start, Sesame Street could have been doing even more to educate our kiddos about autism.
Fret no more, folks; our wishes have been granted. Julia has now become a permanent muppet on the show.
Julia will make her first televised debut on April 10, 2017 (which, conveniently, falls during Autism Awareness Month). She will be featured in two episodes in Season 47 of the show and will make more appearances in seasons to come.
Of course, a very tricky part of creating a character on the spectrum was deciding how to portray her, as everyone with autism is so different. Sesame Workshop, the educational nonprofit behind the show, spent years developing her character—working with different autism organizations for guidance and help.
But of course, like everyone on the spectrum, autism does not define Julia. She is also quite the artist and loves to pick flowers.
While the characters initially face some obstacles in connecting, they are eventually able to play together once they understand Julia’s needs and differences.
“It was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation, they can meet her where she is,” said Christine Ferraro, a writer for the show.
While this new development will undoubtedly help neurotypical children better understand and accept people with autism, it should also prove beneficial for kids on the spectrum, too.
With tears in her eyes, an executive vice president for Sesame Workshop, Sherrie Westin, explained one of the most touching stories that came out of the “See the Amazing in All Children” campaign. One mom used the storybook to explain to her daughter that she was on the spectrum. At the end of it all, the daughter said, “So I’m amazing, too, right?”
I hope that with the introduction of Julia as a permanent character, we will hear more stories like this one.Whizzco