(Zach Hyman/Sesame Workshop via AP)

"Sunny days" return: "Sesame Street" is introducing an autistic character named Julia, and that's a wonderful thing

The influential children's television show is increasing its diversity, with an autistic Muppet named Julia


Matthew Rozsa
March 20, 2017 6:35PM (UTC)

Two years after "Sesame Street" debuted an autistic Muppet named Julia on their digital program, the orange-haired tyke is now going to appear on the actual television show.

"It’s tricky because Autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism. There is an expression that goes, ‘If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism,’" "Sesame Street" writer Christine Ferraro told "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl on.

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If the character of Julia does her job, Ferraro added, "when [children] encounter [people with disabilities] in their real life it's familiar. And they see that these — these can be their friends too."

A survey released by the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University in 2012 found that 63 percent of children with autism spectrum disorders had been bullied. They were three times more likely to experience bullying than their non-autistic peers.

As someone with autism myself, I recently discussed the misperceptions that plague autistic individuals in the Salon Mix feature "I have autism and I'm not 'Rain Man' — and I'm not abnormal, either." As I explained in my piece, it is often very difficult for children with autism to fit in socially with their peers, and frequently those social struggles bleed over into their adult lives — not only when it comes to socialization, but also when it comes to professional accomplishments as well.

Thankfully, popular culture is catching up with science and raising awareness about autism spectrum disorders. Hopefully Julia's presence on "Sesame Street" will raise a generation to whom autism spectrum disorders are as widely understand as other medical conditions today.

 


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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