Arts&Culture

'Sesame Street' introduces Julia, a new character who has autism

'Sesame Street' introduces Julia, a new character who has autism”

The character already exists in print and digital storybooks and is part of an initiative called "Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children".

When Julia is introduced on the show in April, she will meet Big Bird and ignore him.

One in 68 children in the US has autism, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, up 30% from 2012 estimates.

The Sesame Street campaign aims to reduce the stigma associated with Autism as well as introduce a better understanding of the condition.

"We felt that creating a character who was autistic would allow children to identify her but equally important, it would allow us to model for all children the differences and commonalities of a child with autism".

The show's producers told CBS News they struggled over how to talk about autism to a young audience, because it's different for every person.

To get Julia right, the show met with with organizations, experts, and families within the autism community for several years. The muppet was named Unicef's Champion for Children in November 2003. The show will explain why Julia behaves this way, helping children to understand each other better.

How will Sesame Street's makers portray the autistic child?

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Leslie Kimmelman, a children's author, explained she was inspired by her own son when she created Julia's character in her book, "We're incredible 1, 2, 3".

Puppeteer Stacey Gordon, whose son is on the autism spectrum, plays "Sesame Street"'s newest cast member.

"I thought that maybe she didn't like me", he said.

"We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird", Elmo told Stahl.

Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street, features Kami, a HIV-positive Muppet. Julia becomes excited and starts jumping when she sees a group of children playing together.

"60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl, who joined the episode, spoke to Big Bird and Elmo about helping adjust to how Julia reacts to situations.

Julia was so well-received that the company chose to make her a permanent fixture of the television cast. He thinks she doesn't like him, until Abby informs him "she does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way". Some milestones could be something as small as a show airing its 100th episode, whereas a first could be the introduction of a gay character on a prime time sitcom.



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