Sesame Street will introduce a new character starting April 10th: Julia, an autistic Muppet. Puppeteer Stacey Gordon will be in charge of playing Julia, and according to Mashable, she’s thrilled and indescribably honored to play the character.
Gordon is the mother of a 13-year-old autistic boy and expects that the new addition to Sesame Street will bring awareness and compassion for autism.
“The Meet Julia episode is something that I wish my son’s friends had been able to see when they were small,” said Gordon to the Associated Press. “I remember him having meltdowns and his classmates not understanding how to react.”
Julia is Sesame Street’s new autistic character
Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one in 68 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. According to the CDC, although autism disorder hasn’t been defined for the whole spectrum –because it has many variations- the disorder is mostly characterized by social, communicational, and behavioral challenges.
Christine Ferraro, one of the show writers, talked about the cast’s new addition with the Associated Press.
“In writing Julia for the Sesame Street episode, the big question was, what do we talk about? Because with autism, there’s such a range and there’s so many different ways that autism affects people, and there’s no way we could possibly show everything… So we had to pick one lane and go with it,” explained Ferraro.
Sesame Street did a special about the new resident, debuted on 60 Minutes on Monday, and the news was received with positive responses.
“Through Julia, we aim to show that all kids are amazing, and that all kids can be friends. #SeeAmazing,” tweeted the show this Monday, and the post has been retweeted over 3,000 times.
Julia was a success in the online storybook
In the episode, called “Meet Julia” the character of Alan carefully answers questions about Julia’s autism disorder. In one point of the episode, Julia covers her ears as loud siren sounds, and Alan explains to the other Muppets that she doesn’t like loud noises.
Preparing the character for the show proved to be a challenge because Julia flaps her hands when she’s upset – a common behavior among autistic people – and the team had to make two separate sets of arms, ones that could flap and others that didn’t, according to CBS.
Julia also appeared on the Sesame Street in a 2015 Sesame Street online storybook, called “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!” The online book was written by Leslie Kimmelman, whose son also has been diagnosed with autism. The online storybook and the autistic character was widely approved and received positive feedback, which made the show producers create the puppet for the show.
Producers are unaware if the character will become a regular on the popular kid TV show, but the writers hope that she can be added as a major character.
“I would love her not to be Julia, the kid on ‘Sesame Street’ who has autism,” told Ferraro. “I would like her to be just Julia.”
Source: The Washington Post