Sunny days have become sunnier at Sesame Street with a new kid on the block, a vivacious girl with bright red hair and large, expressive green eyes. Meet Julia. And she happens to have autism. Announced October 2015, Julia made her debut on the beloved children’s show Monday, April 10, as part of Autism Awareness Month. In a video to introduce the character, Julia’s friend Abby Cadabby explains, “lots of kids have autism.” And “that means their brains just work a little differently,” she continues. As the Amazing Song proclaims, this effort by Sesame Street is to promote not just autism awareness, but autism acceptance and appreciation.
A Basis on Research and Experience
Noteworthy is that the people who create and enact the show themselves have experience with autism. Frank Campagna, the writer of the respected blog “Autism Daddy” is one of the video producers at Children’s Television Workshop. In his blog, he discusses how, after the birth of his severely autistic son, he sought to bring awareness and acceptance of the condition on the show. And bringing Julia to life is puppeteer Stacey Gordon, an advocate and a parent of a boy with autism.
A researcher at Virginia Tech, herself a mom of a boy with autism, praises the way Julia doesn’t just talk about autism, but shows her young audience how autism is another way of thinking and being, providing the tools for them to interact with their autistic peers.
Resources for Parents
“Sesame Street and Autism” offers a variety of resources for parents, including the following:
- Daily routine cards to help children unable to express themselves verbally with their personal care
- An electronic storybook, We’re Amazing 1, 2, 3, featuring Elmo and Abby and their friend Julia. There’s also Benny’s Story.
- Tips for children on being a friend to a peer with autism.
- A video, “Being a Supportive Parent”
- Advice on helping siblings understand a brother or sister with autism.
- Assistance for parents to prepare for outings
- Ways in which parents can explain what autism is to young children.
Sweepin’ the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get to Sesame Street
Come and play
Friendly neighbors there
That’s where we meet….