'Sesame Street' welcomes Julia, a Muppet with autism

"Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centerpiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism", said Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop's exec VP of global impact and philanthropy.

On Monday, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organisation that backs "Sesame Street", announced that it was expanding its autism offerings, to include new videos, e-books and books, released in both English and Spanish. Come April, kiddie viewers will be seeing more of Julia when she makes her transition to the live-action fold of the long-running children's show, as revealed in a segment screened Sunday on the USA version of 60 Minutes.

Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior VP of US social impact, said families of children with autism have asked the show to address the issue for years now. Julia is played by puppeteer Stacey Gordon, herself a mother of a son with autism.

"It was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation they can meet her where she is", said longtime Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro.

"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 told "60 Minutes".




Scenes with Julia are meant to remove whatever discomfort people may feel upon meeting a child with autism. "When they talk, they may not look you in the eye even though they are listening", says Scott Badesch, CEO and president of the Autism Society of America.

She will be introduced in an episode due to air in the U.S. on April 10th. The other characters will then explain the situation to him, telling him that "She does things just a little differently".

Rosner said that while Julia is a welcome addition, it's the way the show will be treating her character that is most important.

But maybe Julia said it best when Stahl asked if she was enjoying her new friends.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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