'Sesame Street' to introduce Julia, its first muppet with autism

On her “Sesame Street” episode Julia becomes overwhelmed when she hears sirens               CBS News

On her “Sesame Street” episode Julia becomes overwhelmed when she hears sirens CBS News

And now the children's TV show Sesame Street is introducing a new muppet character with a simpler name, and a tougher brief. The creators of the beloved children's TV show have announced they are introducing a new character to the Street, as if Big Bird, the Cookie Monster and Bert and Ernie weren't enough to keep kids tuning in for another half a century. At that point, Julia was a character in children's books, a mobile app, and online stories and videos produced to help kids better understand how to empathetically interact with people who have autism. On April 10, the 4-year-old Muppet with red hair and a knack for painting will make her first TV appearance on "Sesame Street".

It looks like Sesame Street is the latest show that will be introducing an important "first".

Like all Sesame Street characters, Julia was brought to life by a mix of storywriters, educators, and psychologists, and her puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, who has a son with autism. For example, one of Julia's behaviors is to jump up and down, which is common among kids on the spectrum.

Abby tells her pals: 'She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way.' And when a siren goes off, Julia covers her ears and panics.

Robinson Peete is one of many celebrities excited to see Julia rounding out the Sesame Street family - and being more representative of the kinds of people you'll meet in the world. "You have Julia on your team, and she is really good at finding shapes!"

Julia was given specific eyes, "because she has to have an intense look, but she has to look friendly", a short haircut that would not get in her eyes or mouth, and clothes free of "distracting bows and buttons".

One in 68 American children is now diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase of some 119 percent since 2000.

Big Bird is confused and thinks "that maybe she didn't like me". "They would have known that he plays in a different way and that's OK".

In her first screen appearance, Julia is at first misunderstood by Big Bird, who thinks Julia ignores him on goal.

The show worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics Julia should have. "Pleassse make Julia great at number and patterns to show how super smart so many autism kiddos are".

The show's producers told CBS News they struggled over how to talk about autism to a young audience, because it's different for every person.

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