Julia, the newest cast member on the long-running children’s show “Sesame Street”, will be the first autistic character to feature on the show.
The orange-haired, green-eyed puppet, who will debut on the beloved PBS childhood show in April, made her first appearance on “60 Minutes” Sunday night. The opening of the episode, which shows Elmo and Abby Cadabby introducing Julia to Big Bird, shows the new girl reluctant to shake hands with the bird.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism,” said “Sesame Street” writer Christine Ferraro. “There is an expression that goes, ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Stacey Gordon, the voice of Julia, has a son with autism. “It 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…it’s huge”.
Sesame Street has always had a commitment to multiculturalism and diversity and as one of the leading children’s shows for almost 50 years, it has an impact on how kids behave towards those different from them.