How will Sesame Street's makers portray the autistic child?
Meet Julia, the newest cast member on the long-running children's show "Sesame Street".
"She's one of the kids, she's one of the gang", said Rose Jochum, director of internal initiatives at the Autism Society of America, which helped Sesame Street develop the new muppet, on NPR. Through working with autism organizations and various child specialists, they chose to have Julia exemplify more common characteristics of those on the spectrum - sometimes not responding when spoken to, flapping her hands when upset, and being bothered by sudden noises.
Confused, Big Bird thinks "that maybe she didn't like me". The show runners noted that Julia will meet Big Bird and be hesitant to shake the character's hand.
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Julia will be voiced by Stacey Gordon, a mother from Phoenix who has a son with autism. Elmo will then explain that "sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things".
One in 68 children in the US has autism, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, up 30% from 2012 estimates.
"That's a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism", Ms Ferraro said. She said having this representation on TV will show other kids with autism they aren't alone.
The fact that Julia is a girl seems significant, as some believe girls with autism are under-diagnosed. They often feel overwhelmed by sensory issues like noise and bright lights and that means they don't always react the same as other children. "Julia seems like she's gonna bring such a ray of sunshine and bubbly spirit to the show", YouTuber Kylie Dee said.
But she has been brought to life in Muppet-form, and will appear in the American institution's 47 season in a special Meet Julia episode airing in the U.S. on April 10.
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Leslie Kimmelman, a children's author, explained she was inspired by her own son when she created Julia's character in her book, "We're unbelievable 1, 2, 3".
Ferraro hopes that along with educating viewers about autism the new character will settle in as a part of the neighborhood.
"There is an expression that goes, 'If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism'".
Over the nearly five decades "Sesame Street" has been on the air, it has established a reputation for inclusion with its characters.
4-year-old Julia is played by puppeteer Stacy Gordon, who says she has a son on the autism spectrum and has done therapeutic work with people with autism in the past.
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