Sesame Street is about to get its first muppet with Autism is about to make her debut.
Four-year old Julia was actually announced in 2015 for the online initiative, but now she will be on the regular television show, beginning this April.
A 25-year veteran writer of the show, Christine Ferraro, told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl that the show decided to introduce an autistic character in light of the uptick in autism cases in the past 10 years. They wanted to empower children of all abilities on how to interact with their Autistic friends, playground- and classmates.
“So that when they encounter them in their real life it’s familiar,” Ferraro told Stahl at the time. “And they see that these — these can be their friends too.”
On the show, Julia is introduced as staying quiet when the other kids introduce themselves to each other.
Julia’s puppeteer Stacey Gordon has a son with autism and was also introduced by Stahl, telling her the fact that an autistic character is being included on the show is “huge.”
“It means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society,” she told 60 Minutes. “Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion.”
Gordon also said she hoped other kids will better understand autistic children because of the show.
“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 said. “They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s okay.”
She added: “It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like.”