Sesame Street, the long-time favorite children’s television show, will introduce a new and important Muppet next month. Her name is Julia, a four-year-old girl with red hair and green eyes.
Julia has autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty in communicating and developing relationships with other people, restrictive, and repetitive behaviors.
Sesame Street supports children with autism
Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind Sesame Street, said adding Julia as a Muppet to the long-running children’s TV program, is part of its commitment to the autism community.
Sherrie Westin, EVP of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, said, “Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centerpiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism.”
“The response from the autism community to See Amazing in all Children has been extraordinary, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of autism as part of our mission of helping all children grow smarter, stronger, and kinder,” she added.
On the other hand, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, SVP of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, said, “For years, families of children with autism have asked us to address the issue. We heard a call to use our expertise and characters to build a bridge between the autism and neurotypical communities.”
Dr. Bettancourt added that Sesame Workshop worked with many advisors, partners, and organizations to ensure the success of its initiative for the autism community including Julia’s debut on Sesame Street.
A veteran puppeteer gives life to Julia
Sesame Street will air its special episode “Meet Julia” on April 10 in the United States on HBO and PBS Kids. The episode will also air on Australia’s ABC network Cartoonito UK and Mexico’s Televisa. Children in other parts of the world will be able to watch the episode within the year.
Sesame Workshop selected Stacy Gordon to play the role of Julia. She is a veteran puppeteer and has a connection to the new Muppet because her son has autism.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Gordon said, “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s okay.”
She added that a Muppet with autism on Sesame Street “means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion and like her—is huge.”
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