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Seeing My Daughter in Sesame Street's Julia

There are many sayings and phrases that float around the autism community

“If you’ve met one person with autism — you’ve met one person with autism.”

“No one person on the spectrum is the same, just as no two snowflakes are the same.”

Unique, special, different — these words have been used to explain my child many times. I’m all right with that. After all, those are some amazing adjectives to describe a person, and my child is pretty amazing.

The autism spectrum is so wide and vastly unique, just as a person on the spectrum is unique. My daughter Zoey is 4 years old. She’s nonverbal and requires substantial support. I’ve never met anyone quite like her. She’s beautiful, strong-willed, funny, smart and she has a smile that lights up not just a room — her smile lights up the world.

When Zoey was diagnosed just before her 2nd birthday, we were told there was no guarantee she would ever speak. That didn’t stop us or her from trying to communicate — we found our own way, a different way.

I had found that music calmed Zoey during the tidal waves of her frustration. Music became her therapy and her way of communication. She communicates via song lyrics and songs, and instead of talking or me hearing “her first word,” Zoey sang. “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” was my daughter’s first word.

So when I had friends messaging me saying that a character reminded them of my child, or that when they saw this character, they immediately thought of my Zoey — well, I had to see for myself.

I had to meet this Julia, the 4-year-old autistic “Sesame Street” character, with orange hair and different speech and unique quirks and who seems to really like Elmo, just as Zoey seems to really like Elmo. She did remind me of Zoey.

I watched a video of Julia singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and I was overcome with emotion. That was not Julia, that was Zoey! I left the room to grab a tissue to dry my face from the happy tears of finally seeing a character who was so much like my child.

I came back into the room and saw Zoey sitting on the couch, watching the video of Julia singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with her friend Elmo. I watched as she replayed this video over and over .

It felt to me like my child met someone just like her.

Thank you, “Sesame Street.” Thank you, PBS.

That is inclusion. That is awareness. That is autism. That is Julia. That is Zoey.

Follow this journey on Melissa’s blog.

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Photo source: “Sesame Street” on YouTube

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