The groundbreaking public television children's program is introducing a new character, a muppet named Julia who has autism, the show's creators revealed on the CBS News show 60 Minutes broadcast on Sunday. She's been in Sesame Workshop print and digital illustrations for more than a year, and makes her TV debut April 10 on both PBS and HBO.
Sesame Street has often experimented with new ways of teaching children about social issues as well as their ABCs since its launch almost 50 years ago.
However, bosses want to step up her role. "There is an expression that goes, 'If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism, '" Ferraro said. But tackling the topic for children was far from straightforward.
Ferraro says she would like Julia to become a major character on "Sesame Street". When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him.
Explaining the reasoning behind bringing on the new character, Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro said that it's an effort to help normalize interactions between children. Gordon explained, "As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the Sesame Street age".
Confused, Big Bird thinks "that maybe she didn't like me". "Because it is different for every single person who has autism", she tells Stahl.
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Later, when a group of children are playing tag, Julia starts jumping up and down with excitement. "Well, so obviously, they had learned", she says.
Stacey Gordon, the voice actress behind Julia, has a child with autism herself. She's a muppet, naturally.
"It's important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like", she told 60 Minutes.
As Vulture reports, Julia will be familiar to some fans of the show.
Julia was first introduced in 2015, playing alongside Elmo and Abby Cadabby, as part of an online-only Digital Storybook story called "Sesame Street and Autism: See the incredible in All Children". They might not have been anxious when he cried. According to the BBC, girls with autism are under-diagnosed, since their symptoms often appear in different ways than they do with boys.
Now, Julia will finally be joining the regular cast of Sesame Street, and her puppet was crafted with careful consideration.