NEWS FROM LIFE
Living Independently for Everyone
The bravest new character on TV is a Muppet that doesn’t say much. But she speaks volumes about autism.
In 2010, Sesame Street began working with educators, psychologists and activists to arrive at a character that is on the spectrum. Although boys with autism outnumber girls nearly 5 to 1, it was decided after much debate that the new character would be a girl named Julia.
What followed was months of works by artists, writers, actors, puppeteers and others – work that often drew on their personal experience. The puppeteer, Stacy Gordon, has a son on the spectrum. The designer, Louis Mitchell, had volunteered at a school where he befriended a girl with autism. The scriptwriter, Christine Ferraro, who has penned around 100 or more “Sesame Street” episodes, had a sibling on the spectrum.
A sibling sees things a parent doesn’t. They live in the same present tense as the affected individual. As the parents eventually fade, the sib is in it for the full-life journey. They are often the only neuro-typical person the ASD person knows intimately, the one they turn to in distress.
Julia made her debut on the show in 2017, and became known for more than her Austism. She also has green eyes and red hair and an artistic temperament. Does autism define her? Isn’t the first thing we notice about people is whatever makes the different? The show tries to show similarities instead. A roll model for other small kids with autism to see themselves represented in j one of America’s greatest childhood education programming. Along with content on marriage and death, families in the military, hunger in America, even HIV positive Muppets, it covers the hard topics and makes them approachable.
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