(NEW YORK) — Next month, viewers of Sesame Street will be introduced to Julia, a Muppet with autism.
The new character with red hair has been present on digital properties and printed works for some time. Now she’ll get her TV debut in April.
On Sunday the show posted videos to the HBO site and YouTube, introducing Julia to the new medium. Julia sings “Sunny Days” with her friend Abby Cadabby.
She also plays the “Boing Boing Tag” game with Abby.
Sesame Street senior writer Christine Ferraro told 60 Minutes that the character was complex because “autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”
She added, “When [children] encounter [someone autistic] in their real life it’s familiar. And they see that these — these can be their friends too.”
Clips from her debut show depict Julia in normal situations, where she might not answer a new friend right away, but someone who knows Julia explains the situation to the other characters.
The other Muppets and children do not shun Julia for being different. In fact, they welcome her with open arms. Stacey Gordon, the mother of a son with autism, will be the puppeteer for Julia.
“[This] means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion … and like her,” Gordon told 60 Minutes. “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that’s OK.”
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