'Sesame Street' introduces Julia, a muppet with autism

By Wade Sheridan   |   March 20, 2017 at 7:05 AM

March 20 (UPI) -- Sesame Street is adding Julia, a muppet with autism, to its cast.

The character, who first appeared in digital and printed storybooks in October 2015, will debut on the long-running kids educational program in April.

"The big discussion right at the start was, 'How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?'" Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro explained on 60 Minutes Sunday about introducing Julia.

"It's tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism," he continued.

In Julia's debut episode she will display common characteristics found in those with autism. In a scene from the episode, she ignores Big Bird when first introduced to the iconic character.

"I thought that maybe she didn't like me," Big Bird says to Elmo and Abby Cadabby.

"Yeah, but you know, we had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird. It's just that Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things," adds Elmo. "We're pretty good at understanding people. We live with a grouch."

Julia is being portrayed by puppeteer Stacey Gordon who is the mother of an autistic son.

"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," she said of how Julia can help children understand autism.

"They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way, and that that's OK."

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