Julia, the Newest Muppet on Sesame Street, Has Autism: 'She Expresses Herself in Different Ways'
The character's creator and puppeteer has children with autism.
Meet Julia, the newest Muppet on "Sesame Street."
The red-haired, green-eyed addition to the gang has autism, and is part of the children's show's push for inclusivity.
"Julia is an amazing little character," said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice preside of Sesame Workshop, according to APTN. "She's 4 years old. She is not as verbal, but she expresses herself in different ways."
In the first episode, "Meet Julia" airing on April 10, Julia is introduced to Big Bird. She is invited to play a game with fellow muppets Oscar, Abby and Grover, where they must point out different shapes.
Abby tells Grover, "You're lucky. You have Julia on your team, and she's really good at finding shapes."
"There's so many different ways that autism affects people. And there's no way that we could possibly show everything. There's no way we could be symbolic of every kid that's out there," said screenwriter Christine Ferraro. "So we had to pick one lane and go in it. And when we talk about it on the show, when Big Bird asks Alan, 'What's autism?' Alan answered, 'Well, for Julia, it's this.'"
Betancourt, in a press release, said families affected by autism have appealed to "Sesame Street" for years to address the condition.
Julia's puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, knows a lot about the new character.
"I have been preparing for Julia for my whole life," she said."I have a son who has high-functioning autism. And I want to do my best to bring Julia to the world in the best light possible."
“The ‘Meet Julia’ episode is something that I wish my son’s friends had been able to see when they were small,” Gordon said, according to The Associated Press. “I remember him having meltdowns and his classmates not understanding how to react.”
Leslie Kimmelman, a children's author, explained she was inspired by her own son when she created Julia's character in her book, "We're Amazing 1, 2, 3."
"More than 20 years ago, my beautiful son received the diagnosis of autism, and my world changed instantly and profoundly," Kimmelman said in a statement. "I knew nothing about autism, and it seemed that those around me - even the professionals - didn’t know much either. Today, happily, that has changed. There’s greater awareness, and there has been much progress understanding autism."
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