Sesame Street has long been hailed as an influential bastion of cultural diversity—a place where animals, kids, adults and even imaginary creatures can get along. Now, the neighborhood warmly welcomes the show’s first autistic character, reports Justin Wm. Moyer for The Washington Post.
This week, Sesame Street introduced Julia, the first Muppet with autism. It’s part of a Sesame Street Workshop initiative called “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” writes Moyer.
The online initiative includes tools for families of children with autism. Julia is featured in The online storybook, which describes her as Elmo's longtime pal. The two join their friend Abby on a playdate. Julia flaps her hands, covers her ears and is slow to speak, which alarms Abby, until Elmo explains that Julia is autistic.
And in classic "Sesame Street" style, the group celebrates their friendship with a song about how all kids are amazing.
It may seem like basic stuff, but as diagnosis rates for autism spectrum disorders rise, media representation has lagged. Frought with decisions about how and whether to portray autistic characters, many outlets choose not to include them.
In the case of Sesame Street, the decision to feature an autistic character was the culmination of three years worth of work, People Magazine’s Rose Minutaglio writes. Parents, autism advocates and people with autism were all included in the project, whose goal is to foster “an affirmative narrative around autism for all families and kids,” according to the initiative’s website.
There’s no word yet if Julia will make an appearance on the Sesame Street show, but perhaps the small screen could be the next frontier for both Julia and autism awareness for kids.