Our Take: New Muppet introduces kids to autism

There’s a new kid on the “Sesame Street” block, and young people are better off for it. The beloved children’s program, which debuted in 1969, has introduced its first new Muppet in more than a decade in the form of Julia, a 4-year-old with red hair, green eyes and autism.

Within the Sesame Street universe, Julia is introduced as “Julia being Julia” — she likes to paint and to sing, but she might have some characteristics that set her apart from other children. For example, she often repeats what her friends say, and it can be difficult to get her attention.

The welcome addition of Julia to the “Sesame Street” lineup comes at a time when the Centers for Disease Control has estimated that 1 in 68 children have some type of autism spectrum disorder. With so many children affected, it is both reasonable and commendable that Julia be introduced to young people in order to help bring the reality into the mainstream. Such a decision can only enable increased empathy and understanding.

In an interview, Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer who plays Julia and who has a son with autism, echoed what many parents surely can agree with: “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.”

In addition to Julia, “Sesame Street” also provides other resources for children and parents of children with autism, including videos and coloring pages. For more, go to autism.sesamestreet.org.