There’s a new Muppet on the block! Sesame Street will introduce a new character named Julia, the PBS children’s series’ first Muppet with autism, in the coming weeks. Watch a clip of Julia above!
Julia first joined the Sesame Street family in October 2015 in an online storybook called Sesame Street and Autism, but she’s set to make her full-time debut on the classic show on April 10. Julia and Stacey Gordon, the puppeteer who plays the orange-haired character, were introduced to viewers during a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday, March 19.
“As a parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the Sesame Street age,” Gordon said on the CBS program. Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro added, “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”
To create Julia’s character, the team behind the series worked with autism organizations, families and teachers to determine how to portray an autistic child, in addition to how to best explain autism to preschool-age viewers.
Several beloved Sesame Street characters opened up to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl about their first interaction with Julia. “I thought that maybe she didn’t like me,” Big Bird said after revealing that Julia initially ignored him. Elmo added, “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.”
A 2012 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 68 American children has autism.