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Sesame Street Still Innovating After 48 Years, and Introduces an Autistic Character

by Jessica Bentley

Sesame Street has been on forever (48 years to be exact) [1], and they are still continuing to break barriers with their characters. They have recently introduced an autistic puppet.

The puppets name is Julia, and she will make her debut in April. [2] She is an autistic puppet, with orange hair and green eyes. The show seems very excited to introduce this new character.

The shows new addition of Julia will teach the kids watching the show that differences are okay, and prepare them for when they run into an autistic kid.

“It’s cool! It teaches kids how to interact with different people, and to not treat them differently,” said freshman Hannah Benson

The actress voicing Julia, Stacy Gordon, has a son that has autism, and is excited to take on the new role. “It means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society,” said Gordon. “Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion…it’s huge.” [2]

Although Julia doesn’t make her debut on Sesame Street until April, she and some other cast members appeared on 60 Minutes. They talked some about the first episode that Julia will appear on. Julia will meet Big Bird, and things get a little awkward until Elmo explains everything. “We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird. It’s just that Julia has autism, so sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things,” said Elmo. [2]

“I’m excited that they are adding her, but I am curious to see how she is depicted,” commented Special Ed teacher Michelle Baughman

Creating an autistic puppet is a little different than any other puppet. The place where Julia was created was the Jim Henson Workshop. Rollie Krewson said that they had to create two different sets of arms for Julia. They had to create a stationary pair, as well as a pair for when she is upset, those are arm flapping ones. [2]

The first episode with Julia will end with everyone playing tag. Julia gets really excited, and jumps up and down. “It turns into a game where they’re all jumping like her. So it was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation they can meet her where she is,” said Sesame Street Writer Christine Ferraro. [2]

Sesame Street is making great strides adding Julia, giving those with autistic children something to relate to, and those without, a new perspective on them. “It’s awesome,” said Special Ed teacher Benita Rascoe.

Ferraro sums it up perfectly, “I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism. I would like her to be just Julia.” [2]

Source:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sesame_Street

[2] http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/sesame-street-introduces-character-autism-article-1.3002757