The long-running educational show Sesame Street has maintained a positive reputation among kids and their parents for its willingness to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. In keeping with this wonderful tradition, Sesame Street is set to introduce a new character that is unlike any the show has had in it's 48-year history.
The newcomer, #Julia, is special not just because she has orange hair and is seen always playing with her favorite stuffed bunny.
What makes Julia special, and important, is that she has autism.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, one of the show's writers, Christine Ferraro, expressed her desire for Julia to be seen not as the puppet with autism, but as a friend and hopefully, a Sesame Street regular.
Check out a clip from her interview below, along with a short teaser of Julia.
Over the past year, Julia made appearances in Sesame Street promotional material, print media and workshops, especially Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children - an information campaign and initiative that aims to normalize autism among children across America.
Jeanette Betancourt, the senior advisor of the aforementioned workshop, stated the goals she and her colleagues aim to achieve with Julia's introduction into Sesame Street:
"We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children. Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we're looking at children with autism."
Normalizing Autism With Julia
Autism has long been deemed as something "different" - and that's the least offensive word that perpetuates the stigmatization of those who are autistic. Sesame Street aims to challenge the misconceptions by presenting a character who may be autistic, but is far from different or someone to be ignored.
Instead, Julia is shown to be unique and someone who could be any kid's friend. Though she may not see things the same way others do, Julia is still someone who deserves to be loved by the best friends she could find.
For many years, people with autism (or other similar cases) haven't been represented in mainstream television shows or movies in a positive light. Julia could be a possible game-changer, and hopefully, her introduction into the popular educational show signals a trend of representation and inclusion.
Julia is set to make her formal debut in the next season of Sesame Street, specifically in the episode titled Meet Julia, which will air on April 10, 2017 on PBS and HBO.
What do you think of Julia?