Sesame’s Street’s newest character in over a decade is a very special one: Julia, a little orange-haired Muppet with autism. Her introduction is part of Sesame Street’s autism-related “See Amazing In All Children” campaign, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as one in 68 U.S. schoolchildren is autistic. CNN reports that through the character, Sesame Street “hopes to give viewers with autism and their families a character to identify with.”
The character was also discussed on 60 Minutes. The BBC reports that writer Christine Ferraro told the news show, “The big discussion right at the start was, ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?’” The show uses Julia’s behavior to explain why some kids may act a bit differently: jumping up and down with excitement, for example, or not greeting someone initially (at first, Julia ignores Big Bird, who is confused until he is told that Julia sometimes acts differently). Julia’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, is the mother of an autistic child, and explained to 60 Minutes the value of creating a character like Julia: “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. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way, and that that’s okay.”
Just yet another example of the beyond-valuable programming offered to you on PBS that some asshole wants to cut entirely.