Meet Julia, Sesame Street's First Autistic Character

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Sesame Street introduced viewers to a new character in the neighborhood this week.


Dr. Jeanette Betancourt

Julia, a 4-year-old with autism, debuted on HBO and PBS Kids Monday in the “Meet Julia” episode.

Julia is curious and likes to sing. But she doesn’t always use verbal communication with friends Elmo and Aby Cadabby, and that’s one of the autistic characteristics she demonstrates, according to Dr. Jeannette Betancourt, Sesame Street’s senior vice president of U.S. social impact.  

Julia also avoids eye contact and flaps her arms when she is excited or frustrated.

“Through understanding and acceptance we know that then… [there is] much more inclusion,” Betancourt said.

The person behind the muppet, Stacey Gordon, brings that understanding to the role, as the mother of an autistic child.

“She is very aware of the challenges that many autistic children may face, but also the optimism and the approach of acceptance and what that means in the community,” Betancourt said.

Sesame Street already featured Julia on digital videos and books as part of an autism initiative, but this was the first appearance on TV broadcasts. She will appear twice on TV this season and regularly on YouTube, Betancourt said.

Hear the conversation with Betancourt Thursday at 12:33 p.m. on Here and Now featuring the Sound of Applause on 90.3. and in the player above.

 

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