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New Sesame Street muppet teaches children about autism

by George Boria - Copy Editor
Mon, Mar 27th 2017 10:10 pm
Photo taken from News Stuffs on Twitter

Sesame Street has recently unveiled plans to introduce a new muppet, Julia (above, middle). The muppet has autism and will be used to teach children about acceptance and inclusivity Julia will be debuted during the April 10 episode.
Photo taken from News Stuffs on Twitter Sesame Street has recently unveiled plans to introduce a new muppet, Julia (above, middle). The muppet has autism and will be used to teach children about acceptance and inclusivity Julia will be debuted during the April 10 episode.

 "Sesame Street" started in 1969 as an experimental show to see if television could be used to educate children and it has succeeded for almost 50 years. In 2015, "Sesame Street" and "Autism: See Amazing in All Children", a program developed by the Sesame Workshop meant to bring awareness of autism to Sesame Street viewers, debuted. When the initiative debuted in 2015, it introduced Julia, a character with autism who at the time was just a two-dimensional animated character who was friends with Elmo and Abby Cadabby. Julia served solely as an animated character on the YouTube shorts until Stacy Gordon decided to make Julia a reality. In the show's 47th season, airing April 10, the character will make her official television debut. 

Julia may be an adorable character, but she cannot represent all autistic children because according to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition, (DSM-5), autism is a spectrum disorder. It affects everyone differently. So Julia represents her own unique experience living with autism, but she also helps educate viewers on what autism is. 

The character was developed after years of research with psychologists in order to make sure the creators could most accurately depict what Julia would be like with autism. The next step was creating the muppet. During her "60 Minutes" interview Rollie Krewson, the puppet designer for Sesame Street, was asked if there were special difficulties with building Julia versus any other puppet. 

Krewson replied saying "Yes actually, because when she gets upset she flaps her hands so she has two separate sets of arms ... puppeteers have to be able to switch them on set."

Every puppet and muppet needs a puppeteer and the auditions for Julia's have already happened. Gordon, mother to a 10-year-old boy diagnosed on the autistic spectrum was chosen for the role of Julia. Seeing that she had personal experience with autism at home and was a puppeteer herself, she seemed perfect for the role. Gordon expressed a personal joy with Julia officially being accepted into the muppet family. 

 "[Having Julia on the show] means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society," Gordon said in her interview on "60 Minutes" which is what progress and inclusion is all about. 

It's heartwarming to see "Sesame Street" continuing with its initial purpose of educating young children about more than the rudimentary skills of life. "Sesame Street" has always had a tendency to have faith in its young audience to understand larger concepts than just numbers and colors. Amidst the underlying social and political turmoil in our culture today it's good to see one thing staying strong throughout it. 


gbori1@brockport.edu

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