Good Thing: Sesame Street Introduces Julia, An Autistic Muppet
Sesame Street is one of the longest-running kids' shows in history for a good reason. It's not just entertaining; it's also genuinely important, providing kids from all over --- and especially kids from low-income or disadvantaged families --- with lessons about letters, numbers, and the world around them.
Since the show is produced by the nonprofit Sesame Workshop, with a planned curriculum and heavy research in consultation with educational and teaching experts, Sesame Street is constantly evolving to suit the needs of its audience, so it's no surprise that the show is introducing Julia, an autistic Muppet.
Julia first appeared in a 2015 animated storybook, but will make her official live action debut in a Sesame Street episode airing on HBO and PBS Kids on April 10 as part of an ongoing autism education initiative. The character is performed by Stacey Gordon, the mother of an autistic child, and viewers can get an early look at her in a series of videos posted to YouTube.
As you can see from the videos, Julia is delightful. Her love of singing, her skill at memorizing lyrics, and her fear of loud noises like sirens, provide a smart, easy way to introduce neurotypical kids to the concept of autism, and to provide autistic children with a character they might see themselves in --- though of course, every autistic person is different from every other autistic person. Notably, and commendably, Sesame Workshop chose to create a female autistic Muppet to dispel the common assumption that only boys are autistic.
Sesame Street provides a huge, ongoing curriculum, so while the arrival of Julia onscreen feels overdue, it remains very welcome. Julia is just the latest example of how publicly available and publicly funded media like Sesame Street can provide integral support for development and education for all ages.
Note: This article originally referred to Julia as "a Muppet with autism". In deference to the preferred language of autistic people, we have edited the article to refer to Julia as "an autistic Muppet."
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