Sesame Street Introduces Its First Muppet With Autism. Meet Julia
March 20, 2017
When Sesame Street began in 1969, it was considered an experiment. The question: Could television be used to educate young children?
Well, research proved the answer to be yes, and the nonprofit children's television workshop - now called Sesame Workshop - that created the show, has been refining and expanding that mission ever since, everything from ABC's and 123's, to race, and even death.
In a few weeks, Sesame Street will take on its latest challenge: introducing a Muppet named Julia, who has autism.
Rather than being treated like an outsider, which often is the plight of kids on the spectrum, the Muppet youngster is one of the gang.
In an upcoming scene, Julia is about to play a game with Oscar, Abby and Grover. The Muppet friends have been challenged to spot objects shaped like squares or circles or triangles.
"You're lucky," Abby says to Grover. "You have Julia on your team, and she is really good at finding shapes!"
For more than a year, Julia has existed in print and digital illustrations as the centrepiece of a multifaceted initiative by Sesame Workshop called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.
Now Julia has been brought to life as a Muppet. She makes her TV debut on Sesame Street in the upcoming Meet Julia episode.
Years of research went into the new character
Developing Julia and all the other components of this campaign has required years of consultation with organisations, experts and families within the autism community, according to Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior vice-president of US social impact.
"In the US 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 modelling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share."
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