Sesame Street Debuts First Muppet With Autism, Highlighting Important Diversity
I grew up as an Albanian-American. There weren't many Albanian characters in the TV shows and cartoons that I watched, except for that one episode in The Simpsons and the kid ended up being an international spy trying to steal national secrets.
Years and years later, I was at my cousin's house and he popped in the movie Taken, which again featured Albanian characters who were a bunch of human traffickers. Not the best of images for the culture I grew up with. By that time, however, I had pretty much taken it on the chin that people didn't know much about Albanians (nor did I expect them to), and I didn't really make a big stink about it.
But it definitely would've made me feel better if there was a character or person in a TV show who shared a background similar to mine that was represented in somewhat of a positive light.
Which is why it's pretty awesome for Sesame Street to have made its autistic character, Julia, part of its permanent cast.
Julia was introduced to the children's program a couple of a years ago. However, she wasn't made a series regular - just a digital character. Now, she'll join the ranks of Elmo, the Count, Oscar, Cookie Monster, and Grover; you know, the taller, blue, less-famous version of Elmo.
The Sesame Street team talked about Julia on '60 Minutes.'
In the interview, Sesame Street revealed that they worked closely with child psychologists and autism organizations to ensure that they gave an accurate representation of those diagnosed with autism. Show writer Christine Ferraro said that they introduced Julia to help normalize interactions other children have with autistic kids.
"So that when [children] encounter [autistic children] in their real life, it's familiar. And they see that these — these can be their friends, too."
Julia makes her official debut on TV in a few weeks.