Sesame Street has introduced a new character to its long running television series named Julia. Julia already made her debut in print and digital storybooks, however, Sesame Street brought her character to life on the popular television series beginning on April 10th.
Julia is the first character of her kind, because she has a developmental disability, specifically autism. Sesame Street executives hope to reduce the stigma associated with autistic children, through the help of Julia. One in 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and Sesame Street hopes to explain the topic to its young audience. Julia will demonstrate some common autistic characteristics, like not responding to other characters, taking a longer time to complete a task or echoing what she just heard her friends say. Sesame Street executives consulted with autism advocacy organizations to ensure they were properly and respectfully portraying the condition.
Sesame Street hopes that its young viewers will understand that Julia processes information and handles certain situations differently. The big picture, is that autism affects many people and the symptoms and affects manifest themselves differently in each person.
During our lifetimes, we will all come in contact or be affected by someone with an autism spectrum disorder. Often new parents will have to adapt their lifestyle upon receiving an autism diagnosis for their child, but unlike children, adults can understand what autism is. Having a character like Julia, will make the condition relatable and easy to understand for young children and hopefully the viewers will take what they learn from Julia and apply it when they meet someone with the condition.
-Rachel S. Zaslow, Esq.