There’s a new Muppet on the street, and she looks at life a little differently. Her name is Julia, and she has autism. Some may already be familiar with Julia’s online presence. Julia quickly grabbed the attention of viewers as a cartoon character and will be in an episode on April 10 on PBS and HBO.
When Sesame Street began to focus on autism, it started as a social impact project in 2015, which included online video initiatives and animated storybooks. Now, they’re diving right in, and many fans are already hoping Julia becomes a recurring character.
Parents with autistic kids know that sensitivity to surroundings is often associated with the autism spectrum. Simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning can be extremely difficult. The creators of Julia took these types of characteristics into consideration when designing her look and persona. The lack of details are purposeful – a simple hairstyle and button-free, loose fitting clothing – as to not distract her.
Julia also displays other amazing characteristics like her curiosity, love of making new friends, and a beautiful singing voice. All of which were created with the hope that kids will go to school with a new perspective to embrace someone with autism.
Because the autism spectrum (ASD) is so broad, Sesame Street took great care to focus on common attributes of ASD. The Sesame Workshop regularly brings in educators and child physiologists to help better understand how to educate viewers, and in the case of Julia, they also worked with autism organizations to make sure to normalize autism for all children.
In fact, it was only 1943 when the word “autistic“ was first used to diagnose someone in the U.S; unlike today, where one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. That’s why the Sesame Street Workshop chose to tackle this challenging topic head on.
But, wait! There’s more! Sesame Street isn’t the only PBS show to create a new charter with autism. PBS has also partnered with another popular cartoon produced by The Jim Henson Company in April for Autism Awareness Month. Dinosaur Train will air two episodes on April 6 and 7th titled Junior Conductor’s Academy Part One and Part Two. The show will also introduce a new charter with autism and tackle the topic of inclusion with autism’s strengths and weaknesses.
The FamilyTech apps are an excellent way to help kids on the Autism Spectrum control some of their surroundings. They can structure their tasks and understand the outcomes that follow them. If you’re interested in learning more about how ChoreMonster helped one awesome little boy with autism have a sense of pride in his work at home, check out this review from Kodette LaBarbera and her boys, Ryder and Easton.