Having educated generations of children for more than 50 years, it seems that Sesame Street have taken a new approach to TV lesson-teaching.
This time, they’re schooling kids on autism through an autistic Muppet named Julia, who is soon to be introduced to the television show.
Not only that, but the puppeteer who plays Julia, Stacey Gordon, is a mother of an autistic child, herself.
“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,” she says.
When she makes her first official appearance on Sesame Street, she will be introduced by Elmo, Big Bird and Abby Cadabby.
According to Vulture, Julia will be a little hesitant to shake hands Big Bird’s hand, which will then prompt Elmo to explain that because Julia has autism, “sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things”.
Consulting with various families with autistic kids, as well as autism organisations and educators, the team who created Julia explain that it was important for them to be very sensitive when characterising this Muppet – something they believe they have achieved.
“Her eyes had to be a certain way because she has to have an intense look, but she has to look friendly,” says Rollie Krewson, a puppet designer on the show, according to CBS News.
“Her hair had to be made so that her bangs weren’t in her eyes and that her hair didn’t fall into her mouth. And she couldn’t have any adornments in her hair – no barrettes, no ribbons.”
The most important thing Sesame Street wanted to highlight for their young audience through Julia is that even if someone has autism, it doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend.
Give children that information. She’s acting this way because she’s on the autism spectrum,” says Rosemarie Truglio, who is the senior vice president for curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop.
“But then, you can still be friends.”