Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro told the CBS News show 60 Minutes, “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.” The shows newest muppet Julia will demonstrate some os autism’s common characteristics. When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him. Confused, Big Bird thinks “that maybe she didn’t like me”. But the other muppets tell him: “She does things just a little differently.”
Later in the show, when a group of children are playing tag, Julia starts jumping up and down with excitement. “That’s a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism,” Ferraro said. Instead of rejecting Julia, the children create a new game in which they all jump around together.
“It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like.”
According to Stylist, around 700,000 people in the UK are estimated to be on the autism spectrum. Together with their families, this means that autism is a part of daily life for approximately 2.8 million people. “Autism is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.” Says The National Autistic Society.
The character’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon feels extremely connected to her muppet, as she is also the mother of a son with autism. “It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like,” she said in conversation with Stylist. “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviours 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 that’s OK.”
Learn more about autism via the National Autistic Society