The newest resident on Sesame Street is a character with autism. Julia, a cheery 4-year-old with bright orange hair and green eyes, is the newest muppet to join the show's cast in a decade.
Julia, who made her debut April 10 during Autism Awareness Month, is curious and loves to sing songs. She’s also distracted easily and sensitive to touch. She flaps her hands when she gets upset. But, on the show, Julia is always “one of the gang,” as Sesame Street hopes to promote understanding and awareness of autism.
Credit: Zach Hyman
Parents and children were first introduced to Julia more than a year ago when she made her debut online and in print, followed by companion pieces on an app, as the centerpiece of an initiative by Sesame Workshop called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. Julia was a hit with families, and the initiative has generated more than 1.6 million page views and more than 30,000 app downloads to date.
"The response from the autism community to See Amazing in all Children has been extraordinary, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to promote understanding and acceptance of autism, as part of our mission of helping all children grow smarter, stronger and kinder,” said Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop.
One in 68 American children is diagnosed with autism, and nearly every family is affected in some way, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In creating See Amazing in All Children, Sesame Workshop has worked for more than five years in consultation with over 250 organizations and experts within the autism community to address an increasingly prevalent condition.
Among the many creators and contributors behind the initiative are Stacey Gordon, who performs the role of Julia, and Christine Ferraro, the writer of the “Meet Julia” episode. Both women have close family relationships that helped them bring this character to life in a compelling, meaningful way.
Along with Julia’s television debut, the Sesame Workshop – the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street – announced the release of additional resources designed to serve autistic children and their families.
New digital videos, books and e-books add to the See Amazing library, with the collection available in both English and Spanish. “For years, families of children with autism have asked us to address the is- sue. We heard a call to use our expertise and characters to build a bridge between the autism and neurotypical communities,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. “So many partners, advisors and organizations have contributed to the success of this initiative, and we are thrilled to have the benefit of this collaboration as we launch this latest chapter.”
Resources for families and children, including a “Meet Julia” Sesame Street segment, are available at www. sesamestreet.org/autism. The Sesame Street episode featuring Julia's debut will be available free to watch on the HBO Kids YouTube channel.