Friendly neighbors are about to make a new friend. Sesame Street viewers are now being introduced to Julia, a Muppet with autism.
The adorable redhead will first show up on the long-running series alongside Elmo and Abby Cadabby — with whom she first appeared in an online-only digital storybook in 2015 called Sesame Street and Autism: See the Amazing in All Children — as they introduce her to Big Bird, as revealed Sunday on 60 Minutes. Julia is nervous to meet the big yellow star.
“I thought that maybe she didn’t like me,” Big Bird told 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl.
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“We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird,” Elmo told Stahl. “It’s just that Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.” Later, the furry red friend noted, “We’re pretty good at understanding people. We live with a grouch.”
The show worked with various autism groups in developing Julia, and her puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, understands the condition firsthand — her son has it. “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,” she told 60 Minutes. “They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.”
“I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism,” longtime Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro said. “I would like her to be just Julia.”
The “Meet Julia” special episode of Sesame Street will have a landmark joint premiere on HBO and PBS Kids on April 10.