Sesame Street continues its long-standing tradition of teaching children through its medium. Whether that be in the form of teaching the alphabet or talking about inclusion, the show has managed to do so for many decades. In its latest move, the show discusses the latter.
According to a report by the Huffington Post’s Mary Papenfuss, Sesame Street has introduced a new puppet character with autism. Her name is Julia, and while she has been in and around the show’s online digital-storybook series since 2015, she will be making her television debut in April.
The new addition’s designers looked to show what kids with autism deal with. Additionally, they tried to avoid making Julia a standard model for what the disorder entails, per Papenfuss.
In her first appearance, Julia is first greeted by Big Bird with a handshake, but she refuses. This makes Big Bird sad, thinking she doesn’t like him. But Elmo and Abby are quick to let the show’s mainstay that Julia has autism and “does things a little differently.”
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism,” writer Christine Ferraro said, per 60 Minutes (h/t Papenfuss). “There’s a saying that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
Stacey Gordon, who is Julia’s puppeteer, has a son with autism. For Gordon, she wished there was a Muppet like Julia when her son was watching Sesame Street.
“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,” Gordon said, per 60 Minutes (h/t Papenfuss). “And [they] would have known that he plays in a different way, and that’s okay.”