Big News for Julia, the 'Sesame Street' Muppet With Autism!

Stacey Gordon with Julia               CBS News

The character is part of the show's initiative to raise awareness and understanding of the condition, titled Sesame Street and autism: See awesome in all children.

Allen says some children with autism can find it hard to make friends, and need other children to learn to better understand how they function.

"We're modelling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share", she added.

As David Folkenflik reports for NPR, Julia will make her first television appearance on April 10, becoming the first new Muppet to join the Sesame Street cast in a decade.

Several beloved Sesame Street characters opened up to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl about their first interaction with Julia.

Stacy Gordon - a veteran puppeteer whose son is on the autism spectrum and who has worked as a therapist to youngsters on the spectrum - is among those helping bring Julia to life.

Abby tells her pals: 'She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way.' And when a siren goes off, Julia covers her ears and panics.

Julia doesn't talk much, and she has trouble sustaining eye contact with other people. She was so well-received producers chose to have her come and play where everything's A-OK and set about designing a new Muppet and will make her TV debut in the USA on 10 April. When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him. "She needs to take a break", explains Big Bird's human friend Alan calmly.

Speaking to 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl, Big Bird (played by Caroll Spinney, who never appears out of character lest it confuse the children), revealed that, at first, he wasn't sure if Julia liked him. Julia has orange hair and carries a toy rabbit in the show.

The episode shows Julia playing with fellow Muppets Abby and Elmo when Big Bid enters the scene.

"It's tricky, because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism", said Ferraro.

Sesame Street, which has been on air since 1969, has introduced a new Muppet with autism that will help children learn about acceptance.

Betancourt says the introduction of Julia's character is a natural outcropping from other initiatives Sesame Workshop has done, pointing to programs for children with a parent who is incarcerated and for military families enduring deployments.

Badesch said that it was obvious the committee "really wanted to get it right - and they got it right", with Julia's character.

Lever called it a "significant step" in improving public understanding of autism, and making people on the autism spectrum feel more accepted.

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