“Sesame Street” will add Julia, a 4-year-old female muppet who has autism, to its cast next month as part of an expanding autism initiative.
The TV show rolled out the news of Julia’s arrival on its website and released a series of YouTube videos featuring her on Sunday. Julia, who loves to sing and can memorize lyrics better than her young peers, struggles with loud noises like sirens, which can cause her to become upset.
“60 Minutes” aired a segment about the first Julia episode on Sunday night, introducing her arrival on the show with a series of Tweets in the lead-up to the broadcast.
Sesame Street first introduced the character in a digital storybook released in the fall of 2015.
“We wanted to demonstrate some of the characteristics of autism in a positive way,” Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of outreach and educational practices, said in a 2015 interview, after the character’s unveiling, noting that creators made Julia a girl in part in order to break down “myths and misconceptions around autism,” such as that it only affects males.
The character’s arrival on the show is part of a larger educational effort by Sesame Street. On Monday, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that puts out Sesame Street, announced that it was expanding its autism offerings, to include new videos, e-books and books, released in English and Spanish.
In one video released online Sunday, the characters Elmo and Julia play a game of Peek-A-Boo. In another Julia sings along with her fellow muppet Abby to the Sesame Street theme song, “Sunny Days”:
Stacey Gordon, a Phoenix-based puppet artist who plays Julia, is the mother of an autistic child. She said in her interview on “60 Minutes” that she was immediately intrigued by the character when she heard of it. “As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the ‘Sesame Street,'” she told the station.
Julia makes her “Sesame Street” debut on April 10.