Elmo and Big Bird are getting a new neighbor on Sesame Street: Julia, a muppet with autism. The character was introduced in 2015 in an online-only digital storybook, and she continues with the show’s social-impact program, Sesame Street and Autism. Now Julia will make her debut on the show — live and in the felt — beginning in April.
Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes’ met Julia on the set of the long-running series, where Elmo helped the journalist understand their new muppet friend: “We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird. It’s just that Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.”
Children can get a sneak peek at Julia on Sesame Street’s YouTube page, where Julia will be blowing bubbles with Abby Cadabby, playing peekaboo with Elmo, and even inventing her own game, “Boing Boing Tag.”
The woman behind the muppet, Stacey Gordon, traveled from Phoenix to New York to audition for the role, because she has a special connection to the character — she’s raising a son with high-functioning autism. Gordon hopes that Julia will bring some much-needed attention and understanding to the disorder. As she told Stahl, “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. 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.”
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