Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Abby Cadabby, and Elmo will have a new neighbor. Like the other lovable residents of Sesame Street, Julia is warm, friendly, and eager to learn — and she also has autism.
Sesame Street introduced Julia, its latest addition, this week with her own digital storybook, We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3. In scenarios that children can relate to, the book showcases how a child with autism may act differently.
For example, when Abby Cadabby asks to join Julia and Elmo, Julia looks down. Abby Cadabby is confused by this, so Elmo explains Julia has autism. “So she does things a little differently,” he says in the book. “Elmo talks to Julia using fewer words and says the same thing a few times.” The storybook also explains certain characteristic traits of being on the autism spectrum, like hand-flapping or covering one’s ears and being scared in busy places.
Sesame Street has earned heaps of well-deserved praise for bringing a character with autism into the neighborhood. But Julia is hardly the first member of the Sesame Street family to break ground in children’s television.
In 2002, the South African version of Sesame Street (Takalani Sesame) added Kami, an HIV-positive character. In 2006, Israel’s Sesame Street (Rehov Sumsum) added an Arab-Israeli character, Mahboub, who spoke in both hebrew and Arabic.
Even when it comes to discussing disabilities, Sesame Street has been at the forefront. Way back in 1975, Jason Kingsley, the son of Sesame Street writer Emily Kingsley, became the first child with Down Syndrome on television. He appeared on the series more than 50 times.
We’re looking forward to Julia bringing just as many sunny days to Sesame Street.