Sesame Street introduces new autistic muppet
March 28, 2017
Filed under The Edge
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Sesame Street is the famous show where playful Muppets teach children valuable life lessons, and it was announced that the show is adding a new friend. Julia is the newest addition to the Sesame Street Muppet family, and there is something is quite special about this new Muppet. Julia has a mental condition called autism. Autism is classified as a range of conditions that showcase challenges in social skills, repetitive behavior, speech and nonverbal communication.
Adding a Muppet on the autism spectrum was an idea to help children understand those with autism better. Sesame Street is no stranger to dealing with hard-hitting subjects on their daytime television show. They like to think of Sesame Street as not avoiding what is real. And adding this new character, Julia, is no different. A lot of the kids watching the show probably know someone at school who has autism, and hopefully this new character will help them better relate to those peers.
The Sesame Street creators wanted to make sure that they did this character correctly and represented her in a proper way. They understood that it would be impossible to showcase every version of autism within one girl, since it varies from case to case. However, they consulted with a specialist to make sure that Julia was as perfect as possible. They thought long and hard about every aspect of this character. Sesame Street purposely created the character as a girl to show that females can have autism too. Autism usually shows up in boys, so they are trying to even further break down misconceptions of the mental disorder. Julia’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, is a mother of an autistic child, which helps bring the character to life since she can draw from her experience with her own kid.
Christine Ferraro, a writer for Sesame Street, wanted to make sure she was conveying the autistic character correctly in the script. Her biggest challenge was figuring out how to talk about autism.There are numerous versions of autism, so the challenge was how they were going to convey this character in a reasonable way. After consulting with autism experts, they came to a decision about what traits the autistic Muppet would have. A clip of Julia interacting with the other Muppets has been circulating around social media platforms for a few days, so the general public has gotten a preview of what to expect.
In one scene, they showcased Julia meeting one of Sesame Street’s most famous characters, Big Bird. He tries to greet Julia and become her friend. Big Bird assumes right away that she does not like him since she does not respond to him. However, someone who knows Julia explains that it just takes her some more time to respond and make friends. This is an important exchange for children to witness, so that when they meet a child with autisim they understand that the child is not trying to be rude but rather it will take them longer to respond. The Muppets say that she does things just a little differently. This particular scene demonstrates a common trait of autisim, social anxiety, in a child friendly way. Julia tries her best to interact with the other Muppets, and eventually plays with them; it just takes a while, like the Muppets explained to Big Bird and the audience.
The producers and writers of Sesame Street also share that Julia will have a few recognizable autistic traits. This is all to try and get children to understand and be more open about autism. Julia is going to have social anxiety, high energy and sensitivity to noise. These are all traits that young children watching the popular show will most likely recognize in their autistic friends and family.
In a recent interview with the Muppets, the character Julia kept repeating words and struggling to communicate. Another Muppet tries to explain why Julia is acting the way she is so that young children will learn about autism and how to deal with it if they are presented with similar situations.
Julia will make her full debut to Sesame Street on April 10. Hopefully in the future, the show will have more great and new characters to represent other mental and physical disorders. Who knows, maybe Sesame Streetcould have a Muppet friend with Down’s Syndrome next.
The general public had such positive feedback that the clip of Julia flooded Facebook for the entire day. People were thrilled that Sesame Street was going to help children understand autism. More television shows geared towards the younger audience should take some notes from Sesame Streetand help our future generations be more aware and understanding of challenges that people have to face. This will help not only parents and children but teachers and schools as well if the students know howto interact with one another regardless of whether or not they have a disability.
Sesame Street is doing an amazing thing by adding Julia to their Muppet crew. They are helping our communities,our schools and most importantly, our future understand how to have relationships with people on the autism spectrum. For more information on Julia and autism, go to autism.sesamestreet.org where they “see amazing in all children.”