This April, Big Bird makes a new friend on Sesame Street: A little red-headed girl named Julia, who clutches a bunny in her hand and does things “a bit differently.”
In Julia’s first episode, she experiences a bit of a glitch while meeting Big Bird. When the two are introduced by pals Abby and Elmo, Julia is hesitant to shake Big Bird’s hand. He’s sad and worried that Julia doesn’t like him, but Elmo explains that Julia has autism so she “does things a little differently”
And that’s OK.
The show’s creators hope Julia will help children better understand playmates who have autism, which is affecting more and more American kids. Children with autism will also have a Muppet they can identify with.
Julia’s designers were eager to use the new Muppet to express issues kids with autism often deal with, without turning her into some kind of standard model for everyone with the disorder.
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism,” writer Christine Ferraro told “60 Minutes.” “There’s a saying that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Still, the show’s creators wanted to exhibit certain behaviors through Julia that children with autism may exhibit. They consulted with organizations serving families dealing with autism to discuss what best to highlight.
Julia’s first episode not only focuses on her reluctance to engage with Big Bird, but also her sensitivity to loud noises and her excitability during a game.
Go, Julia! And good for Sesame Street! Here’s hoping it can survive Trump’s diabolical budget cuts!