I almost cried on my way to work today because of a story I heard on the radio. Not about something terrible going on in the world, although there’s plenty of that. No, the story that brought tears to my eyes was about Sesame Street. Yes, that Sesame Street.
Sesame Street has added a new muppet to the permanent cast, something that doesn’t happen all that often. The new character is a girl muppet with autism named Julia, who is portrayed as about 4 years old. She has many of the same characteristics my daughter has, including hand-flapping, echolalia, and other characters have some difficulty getting her attention (for example, they say her name multiple times). And they made her a GIRL! Most people with autism are male, and while they might not be as happy as I am about this, the idea of having a girl character with autism is just great for my daughter.
More important than the fact that my daughter will now have a muppet on sesame street just like her is the fact that the other kids in her class will see it too. The show is going to model how to treat children with autism using the new muppet, modeling inclusion and acceptance of typical autism differences. So I hope this will encourage other children not to make fun of my daughter and children like her, and demystify autism a bit for everyone.
New episodes of Sesame Street featuring Julia will be out in April, and of course my daughter will watch them. For more info, see the print version of the radio story I heard here: http://www.npr.org/2017/03/20/520577117/julia-a-muppet-with-autism-joins-the-cast-of-sesame-street.