PHOTO: SESAME STREET
Beloved children's television program Sesame Street just got a bit more inclusive by introducing its first character with autism.
In a segment on 60 Minutes last night, the show's first autistic character, Julia, was introduced. Julia was first seen back in 2015 as part of an online "Digital Storybook" story entitled, 'Sesame Street and Autism: See the amazing in all children,' but will now feature as a Muppet.
The creators of the show have been careful to handle the introduction of this new character with great care, and represent autism in a realistic, fair way. They spoke with autism organizations, teachers, and families about their experiences with autistic children, so as to best explain the condition to young children.
Christine Ferraro, a writer for the series tells 60 Minutes: "It’s tricky because autism is not one thing; because it is different for every single person who has autism."
The puppet was built with very specific eyes that can close when she gets overwhelmed or upset, a short haircut that will stay out of her eyes and mouth, and clothes without buttons.
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) March 19, 2017
The fact that Julia is a female character is also significant, as autism is often under-diagnosed in young girls.
Stacey Gordon, the puppeteer who plays Julia, happens to have a son with autism. She says, "As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the Sesame Street age."