Sesame Street is getting a special new neighbor in a muppet named Julia, who is “different from all the rest” because she has autism.
Everyone, meet Julia, Sesame Street’s newest Muppet! According to Entertainment Weekly, Julia first appeared in the Sesame Street universe in a 2015 digital storybook called “Sesame Street and Autism: See the Amazing in All Children.” In there, she appeared with Elmo and Abby Caddaby. Now she’s becoming a series regular, and Elmo and Abby will be introducing her to Big Bird in her debut episode on the show.
Speaking to 60 Minutes‘ Leslie Stahl, Big Bird (played by Caroll Spinney, who never appears out of character lest it confuse the children), revealed that, at first, he wasn’t sure if Julia liked him. He couldn’t make heads or tails of her expressions, and she seemed nervous to meet him. However, Elmo — also speaking to Leslie Stahl in the same interview — said that he and Abby subsequently explained to Big Bird that Julia has autism.
"“Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things. We’re pretty good at understanding people. We live with a grouch.”"
On one hand, Julia’s debut on Sesame Street struck the cast as a positive thing. For example, Stacey Gordon, who is Julia’s puppeteer, has a son who has autism, and she felt that the appearance of a Muppet with autism would have gone a long way in helping her son’s classmates get a better grasp on what her son was going through.
Official Image via Sesame Workshop
On the other hand, Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro said that she didn’t want Julia to be seen as “special” just because she had autism.
"“I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism. I would like her to be just Julia.”"
Julia will have her small screen debut on Sesame Street in an episode called “Meet Julia,” which will have a joint premiere on HBO and PBS Kids on April 10.