For Years, He Was Underestimated. Now, This Teen With Autism Has His Own Film.


Julia, a new character on Sesame Street, talking with another character

How the New Girl on the Street Can Help Children Understand Autism

In case you missed it, one of the nation’s oldest and most beloved children’s television programs has taken a huge step towards inclusion of children with disabilities.

In the next couple of weeks, Sesame Street is introducing its newest character, Julia, a young girl on the autism spectrum. Writers for the show expressed Julia “does things a little differently.” This is part of a larger campaign geared towards introducing children to autism and reducing the stigma still associated with autism.

The show is striving to portray some behaviors associated with autism in an environment where children will see Julia accepted by their favorite characters. This way, they will hopefully better understand if they see some of the same behaviors exhibited by their classroom peers. This is an ambitious endeavor since, of course, autism can be different for each individual. As the saying goes, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Learning about Julia and her upcoming debut on “Sesame Street” immediately evoked tears for me. Having grown up with a younger sibling with autism, I know firsthand the very real impact this character can have in teaching children at a young age about autism and the need for empathy and understanding. My brother was bullied for many of the behaviors Julia exhibits, including the hand flapping, sharp reaction to loud noises, inability to read social cues and ultimately for appearing “different.” Unfortunately, children were not the only problem, as many adults were not compassionate or understanding when my brother would exhibit these behaviors in public. My family became accustomed to the stares and rude comments when we were out to dinner, at the movies or even the grocery store. Oftentimes, people seemed to believe he was simply misbehaving as a result of bad parenting, rather than accepting his actions were the direct result of his disability.

“Sesame Street” has created another big crack in the proverbial glass ceiling that still suppresses open discussion and inclusion of individuals with autism and other disabilities in our society. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Bullying is an age-old problem that has become an issue of national concern in the last several years with the rise in self-harming behaviors and suicides. Children with disabilities can be especially vulnerable to bullying for a variety of reasons, but namely because they appear “different.” How easy would it be for us as parents, educators, role models and leaders to follow the lead of “Sesame Street” and start teaching children that different does not equal bad, but it is a beautiful part of humanity that should be fostered and embraced? Kindness and acceptance begins at home, and I do not believe children are “born bullies.” Bullying can be a learned behavior, and it could be replaced with empathy and compassion. Wouldn’t it be nice if a new student with autism at school could be “just another new kid” a child accepts and befriends, rather than that “different kid” eating alone in the cafeteria or playing alone on the playground?

Information is power, and I believe “Sesame Street” is empowering families like mine and yours across the country, and around the world, by helping a large portion of the population — children and adults alike — learn more about autism and how they can be helpful and kind to those on the autism spectrum.

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Photo source: YouTube video screenshot

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Sesame Street's Newest Resident Is Julia, a Muppet on the Autism Spectrum

*Editors Note: The video version incorrectly spells the puppeteer’s name as ‘Stacy Gordon,’ and is corrected in the transcript as ‘Stacey Gordon.’

For the first time in a decade, Sesame Street is adding a new muppet to the block: Julia, a young muppet on the autism spectrum.

Read the full version of Sesame Street’s Newest Resident Is Julia, a Muppet on the Autism Spectrum.

Read the full transcript:

For the First Time in a Decade, Sesame Street Is Adding a New Muppet to the Block.

Meet Julia, a young muppet on the autism spectrum.

“For years, families of children with autism have asked us to address the issue.” – Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop

“So many partners, advisors, and organizations have contributed to the success of this initiative.”

In 2015, Sesame Workshop launched Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.

This online initiative introduced Julia as a digital character in a storybook called “We’re Amazing, 1,2,3.”

Sesame Workshop has spent five years consulting with 250 organizations and experts within the autism community.

Julia will be played by Stacey Gordon, a puppeteer whose son is on the autism spectrum.

“I really wish that kids in my son’s class had grown up with a ‘Sesame Street’ that had modeling [of] the behavior of inclusion of characters with autism.” -Stacey Gordon, NPR interview

Julia will make her debut April 10 on PBS Kids and HBO.

Photo of all of the Power Rangers

New Power Rangers Movie Features a Power Ranger With Autism

The big screen is about to get more inclusive, thanks to the new Power Rangers reboot. On Tuesday, it was announced that Billy the Blue Ranger is on the autism spectrum.

“I just wanted to show a different, like, viewpoint of people that are seen as being on the spectrum, right? Or people diagnosed with autism, ’cause it’s like I feel like us being outsiders looking in and I take that, I cast my own stone when I say that, ’cause there’s a lot that I didn’t know before,” RJ Cyler, the neurotypical actor playing Billy, said in an interview with ScreenRant.

In preparing for the role, Cyler told ScreenRant he spoke with people on the autism spectrum:

I actually sat down and shut my mouth and actually just listened and you know, accepted every bit of information with no judgment … I knew that it was my job to show, you know, that people that are on the spectrum are just regular people, literally, just how we talk, how me and Becky [who plays the Yellow Ranger] talk, they feel the same way, they have the same emotions, they wanna be loved, that want people to love, they want relationships they want, you know, connections, and it’s just like I was really excited to be able to play that ’cause I know it means so much to so many people.

Power Rangers is the latest franchise to introduce a character with autism. Earlier this week, Sesame Street announced it’s adding a new muppet, Julia, who will be on the autism spectrum. Popular video game Overwatch also shared that its character Symmetra is on the spectrum as well.

Power Rangers hits theaters March 24.

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