The classic television series Sesame Street recently decided to add a new character. The character’s name is Julia and her mental condition has garnered much attention. Sesame Street has been on the air for 47 years and has been teaching lessons in tolerance since its first days on the air.
Julia is a four year old with red hair, a lot of friends, and autism. Her character has been in development for five years and will air on April 10th. One in 68 children born are diagnosed with autism. The number has increased by 119% percent since 2000. This character will be great for letting these kids know that there is nothing wrong with having autism. “It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like,” said Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer of the character, when on 60 Minutes.
This will also be very helpful in minimizing the bullying of autistic people. “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s okay,” Stacy Gordon also said.
Julia has a mother in jail and a father in the military. This will also be great for children who feel lonely in their struggles. It will help kids in similar situations have someone to relate to and make their problems feel real, let them know that there is nothing wrong with the situations they were given, and that it’s okay to feel upset about them.
Her autism will be shown in that she excels in some areas and lacks very much in others. She also spaces out a lot and it is very hard to get her attention. She’ll often also repeat what her friends Elmo and Abby say. She loves to paint and pick flowers. “That’s just Julia being Julia,” Abby said.
“Basically, in terms of vulnerable families, we’re looking at families who may have particular stressors in their lives that are impacting their young children,” said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for U.S. social impact at parent company Sesame Workshop. Jeanette has been helping plot the development of Julia for about three years now.
The character is set to appear in two episodes of this season and more in the next. This will be a great reminder that in dark times with such an intolerant government and a seemingly intolerant people, there is still hope for our children and the future.