'Sesame Street' to introduce TV fans to Julia, a Muppet with autism

Julia Sesame Street's new muppet.
   
 

  Enlarge  Caption

Julia Sesame Street's new muppet. Enlarge Caption

The same could be said of "60 Minutes", which debuted in 1968, where Stahl is the correspondent most likely to do education-related segments. But the use of Julia was limited to a digital character. She's been seen in the Sesame Street's storybooks since 2015. When the two are introduced by pals Abby and Elmo, Julia is hesitant to shake Big Bird's hand.

The job was awarded to puppeteer Stacey Gordon, who travelled 2,400 miles from Phoenix to New York City to audition for the role. She traveled from Phoenix to audition. Julia "does things a little differently", according to the Sesame workshop. Other details included making sure Julia had a short haircut that would not get in her eyes or mouth, and clothes free of distracting bows and buttons.

Christine Ferraro, a "Sesame Street" writer for 25 years, discusses the challenges of portraying autism.

"She's one of the kids, she's one of the gang", said Rose Jochum, director of internal initiatives at the Autism Society of America, which helped Sesame Street develop the new muppet, on NPR. "There's a saying that if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism".

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"So that when they encounter them in their real life it's familiar", Ferraro says. By watching Julia interact with her peers, neurotypical kids will begin to understand that not everyone thinks or responds like them.

"I thought that maybe she didn't like me", Big Bird told 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl. Though she may not see things the same way others do, Julia is still someone who deserves to be loved by the best friends she could find. "We live with a grouch".

Sesame Street has been on the air since 1969, meaning many kids today have parents and even grandparents who grew up watching the show, too. Gordon noted: "Had my son's friends been exposed to his behaviours through something they had seen on TV before they experienced it in the classroom, they might not have been frightened..." They might not have been anxious when he cried. And then it turns into a game where they're all jumping like her.

Now, the children's television show will be adding a new character with autism on its show, the first muppet with a developmental disability.

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