‘Sesame Street’ Is Introducing a Muppet With Autism
Long-running children’s series Sesame Street is introducing a brand new muppet character, Julia, who has Autism.
The character initially debuted last year as the focal point of a major Sesame Street multimedia campaign that aims to promote a better understanding of Autism with the show’s young viewers.
Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact Jeanette Betancourt told the Associated Press that the character had been in in development for several years. She also explained the company’s goals for the character.
“In the U.S., one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder,” she said. “We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children. We’re modeling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share.”
The character appeared on a wide range of platforms, including a storybook, an ebook, viral videos, and a smartphone app before transitioning to the series as a regular character. Julia is scheduled to make her Sesame Street debut on an April 10 episode of the series aptly titled “Meet Julia” that will air on both PBS and HBO.
Julia’s performer, Arizona-based Stacey Gordon, has a son with autism and is eagerly awaiting the character’s TV debut.
She told the AP, “The ‘Meet Julia’ episode is something that I wish my son’s friends had been able to see when they were small. I remember him having meltdowns and his classmates not understanding how to react.”
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) March 20, 2017
Gordon further elaborated on what playing the part means to her.
“It is so much fun to be on set with everyone, and get to play up all the positive things I’ve seen with the kids that I’ve worked with.” Gordon continues, “At the same time, I come at this with a reverence. I don’t want to let the autism community down.”
Julia’s PBS debut comes at a perilous time for public television. Last week, President Donald Trump proposed a budget that would eliminate funding for PBS and other public amenities. These potential cuts could cripple programs like Sesame Street and negatively impact their ability to educate children.