Beloved kid’s show Sesame Street has welcomed a new muppet into the family – a girl named Julia who has autism.


Julia, a little girl with orange hair and a toy rabbit, will make her debut on HBO and PBS in April. While the CDC says autism diagnoses have risen in recent years (1 in every 68 children), it is a difficult subject to breach on television.

“The big discussion right at the start was, ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?'” said show writer Christine Ferraro. “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”

Their solution is to portray her demonstrating some common characteristics. She ignores Big Bird when he tries to talk to her. At first, Big Bird is afraid that means Julia doesn’t like him, but the other muppets quickly explain that, “she does things just a little differently.”

Later, when the kids play tag, Julia jumps up and down excitedly instead, yelling, “Boing, boing!” And the kids react well, but joining Julia and jumping up and down also.

Julia’s creator, Stacey Gordon, has an autistic son herself. “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened,” she told 60 Minutes. “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.”

It is unclear if Julia will become a major character or stay on the fringe, but Ferraro is excited about the development. “I would love her to be not ‘Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism,'” she said. “I would like her to be just ‘Julia.'”

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