Julia, the newest felt-faced resident of Sesame Street, has orange hair, likes to draw and and loves to sing despite her shyness. She’s also the Muppets’ first autistic character.
One of the first new Sesame Street characters since the introduction of Abby Cadabby back in 2006, Julia’s now a playmate of Abby’s. As NPR learned during their visit to the show’s New York City set in Astoria, Queens, Abby, Big Bird and the other characters know that getting Julia’s attention can be challenging, and she often likes to echo what her friends say. And that’s okay.
“That’s just Julia being Julia,” Abby Cadabby explains. 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.
“Man, I really wish that kids in my son’s class had grown up with a Sesame Street that had modeling [of] the behavior of inclusion of characters with autism,” Gordon told NPR.
Sesame Workshop (formerly known as Children’s Television Workshop) has been developing Julia’s character for three years, consulting with 14 different autism groups including the Autism Society of America. She first made her debut in books and digital content, and Julia will appear in two episodes of Sesame Street‘s current season with more planned for future seasons.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 68 children are affected by autism spectrum disorder.