An Arizona mom will be making history on Monday, April 10, when she joins the cast of “Sesame Street.”
Stacey Gordon, a Phoenix puppeteer, is bringing Julia — a Muppet with autism — to the show. The idea is to teach families and children about acceptance. Julia, an orange-haired girl who sometimes does things a bit differently, was first introduced last year in digital form.
In the program, Elmo and Abby help other kids on “Sesame Street” understand that even if Julia doesn’t look them in the eye, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be their friend. The debut coincides with National Autism Awareness Month, celebrated in April.
“Sesame Street” sees Julia as the cornerstone of its “strong continuing commitment to the autism community.” Gordon, who performs the role of Julia, has a son with autism, as does the writer of the show, Christine Ferraro. The women say their relationships helped them bring the character to life in a meaningful way.
In the United States, about one in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Sesame Street” says children with autism are also five times more likely to be bullied. With the inclusion of Julia, the program’s creators hope to change that.
According to the show, “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” is an effort to promote understanding and acceptance of autism as part of a greater mission to help “all children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.” In addition to the muppet herself, the program has resources to serve autistic children and their families, such as videos, books, and ebooks.
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Sesame Street’s “Meet Julia” is available on YouTube, HBO, PBS KIDS, and sesamestreet.org/autism. Watch for an interview with Gordon (who has been a puppeteer at Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix) about her new role and her life as a mom of a child with autism in an upcoming issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine soon.