Sensory Overload Canceled at This Parade

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Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a special tradition for many, but it was made extra-special for the autism community this year thanks to some attention to detail by Sesame Street staff members.

When the Sesame Street team put their float together this year, they put some thought into how their characters would feel about being in the parade, particularly Julia, one of the show’s newest characters, who has autism.

Julia showed up for the parade fully prepared for sensory overload. She stayed close to her friend Rosita and wore her noise-canceling headphones throughout the event.

Noise-canceling headphones are a device often used by people operating heavy machinery, but they’re also great for those on the spectrum who are easily aggravated by loud noises and other sensory input. These sound-muffling headphones can make it easier for people with sensory processing issues to attend noisy events like concerts, races, fairs, and, of course, parades.

“We are thrilled to have our friend Julia join us at the Thanksgiving Day Parade this year!” Sesame Street wrote on Twitter. “With the help of her friend Rosita and the comfort of her noise-canceling headphones, Julia is ready for a fun and festive day in NYC!”

A few hawk-eyed viewers posted photos of Julia to Twitter and other social media sites, stating their appreciation for the extra care Sesame Street put into making Julia’s character realistic and reducing the stigma surrounding autism and sensory processing issues.

“My autistic daughter saw Julia on the Sesame Street float and said, ‘There’s Julia wearing her headphones because she’s autistic,'” one Twitter user shared. “Seeing others like her represented in society is so important for my girl, it makes her feel included and loved.”

“I love the painstaking work that Sesame Workshop puts into making sure every kid knows they’re welcome on #SesameStreet,” another user wrote on Twitter.

This user, who happens to be autistic, was particularly enthusiastic about the idea: “Guys. Guys. Julia is on the Sesame Street float in the Macy’s Day Parade,” she wrote. “And she’s wearing ear blockers like I do at parades. Like thousands of #ActuallyAutistic kids and adults. Millions of people are watching. This is everything.”

Julia’s character was initially invented in 2015 as part of “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” which was the product of five years’ worth of listening to the requests of viewers and consulting with autism experts. She originally appeared in the digital storybook “We’re Amazing, 1,2,3,” but she’s been a regular on the Sesame Street show since her debut in April of 2017.

“For years, families of children with autism have asked us to address the issue,” Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, SVP of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop said in a press release. “We heard a call to use our expertise and characters to build a bridge between the autism and neurotypical communities.”

Thank you, Sesame Street, for going the extra mile to be more inclusive and accepting in the representation of your characters. You’ve made so many people feel understood and appreciated, and the world needs more of your fantastic attitude!

Never Heard of Julia? Learn More About One of the Newest Sesame Street Characters: Click “Next” below!

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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