Two years ago, Sesame Street premiered on the show its first character with autism.
Her name is Julia. She is 4 years old and has bright red hair. She is played by Stacy Gordon, a mom whose son is autistic.
Now, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Sesame Street has introduced Julia’s family and launched new resources for those impacted by autism, which is 1 in 59 American children, according to the CDC.
“Showcasing Julia is a incredible way to share and demonstrate how Julia shares so much in common with all children,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, who helped bring Julia’s family to life for Sesame Street.
“That’s our main thing, is to reduce the stigma, but more importantly show the commonality that Julia shares with every child and that is, for us, a changing view of autism.”
Meet Julia’s family
Growing Julia’s world was a response to parents’ and viewers’ feedback, said Betancourt.
Julia’s mom Elena is an art teacher and her dad Daniel is an EMT that plays saxophone. She also has a neurotypical big brother Samuel and companion dog Rose.
Bringing Julia’s family to life helps further the message of commonality and understanding, said Betancourt.
“It shows the nuances of sometimes when there is a child with autism, how does the family rally and support Julia, but also how they adapt and cope with different strategies,” she said.
Videos, a game and other resources
While Julia’s family won’t be appearing on Sesame Street just yet, the website for the show’s autism initiative “Amazing in All Children” offers three new videos featuring the family, an interactive game and articles with tips for parents, families and friends.
In one video called “Starfish Hug,” Julia and Samuel teach Abby Cadabby a new kind of hug because Julia doesn’t like big wrap-around hugs.
Watch a new Julia episode
Also, in response to feedback, said Betancourt, a new Sesame Street episode follows Julia as she goes for haircut – something that many parents say is challenging for children on the spectrum.
Julia’s friends Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Alan help Julia feel less scared by playing “hair salon” and pretending to be hair stylists.
The show airs on April 8 on HBO and PBS KIDS.
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