I found myself watching your show again after a 20-year break. In fact, I programmed it into my DVR so I wouldn’t miss it. I was excited to meet Julia, the new muppet who made her debut this week. You may not think that someone my age would care about Julia’s introduction, but the show’s influence on my life was huge. In fact, one of the first words I spoke was “street” – it meant that I wanted to watch Sesame Street. Meeting a muppet like me was something I never imagined would happen and I had to see it for myself.
Julia is the first muppet to have autism. She was introduced to the audience meeting Big Bird, who at first didn’t understand her autistic behaviors. This episode did a good job showing some of the challenges that people with autism may experience. The explanation that some people with autism don’t talk very much, may not respond right away, flap their hands or arms as a reaction to things like excitement, and are often sensitive to loud noises was very accurate. Through Julia, you also showed that many people with autism are very artistic. By the end of the episode, with the help of Elmo and Abby Cadabby, Big Bird realized that all of his friends have differences, and that’s ok. Although this is a simple way to explain autism, it provides an easy way for young children to understand and that is the goal. I believe that if Julia had been on Sesame Street when I was growing up, then I would not have had to go through all of the bullying and teasing that I did.
I also watched the 60 Minutes story that explained how Julia was created and who her puppeteer is, a mom who has a son with autism. It was an amazing story and I was personally moved by it. I believe that if young kids learn and understand autism before they start school, when they meet classmates who have autism (like me), they will understand them better and not freak out or be nervous around them because of their differences. Thanks to Julia, kids with autism won’t have to go through the challenges that I did, and that makes me very happy.
Thank you for adding Julia to the Sesame Street gang and bringing autism awareness into homes everywhere.
P.S. Watch the full Julia clip here: