"Sesame Street" has always been a friendly, welcoming place for kids, and now the show is making it clear that they want to be more welcoming than ever. That's why the show announced on "60 Minutes" Sunday night that a new Muppet with autism will be joining the cast.
Julia is a great singer and can remember all the words to many songs. When she's excited, she flaps her arms around, and loud noises like sirens startle her and require a break from playtime. She also loves to play with her favorite stuffed animal.
The Muppet made her debut in storybooks and on a website from Sesame Workshop, which created an initiative in 2015 to educate kids and parents about autism. But now Julia is becoming a regular cast member on the show itself, and she can been seen on the "Meet Julia" episode on April 10, airing on both PBS and HBO.
"In the U.S., one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder," Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, told the Associated Press. "We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children. We're modeling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share."
The YouTube page for "Sesame Street" released several new clips featuring Julia, many with the character Abby Cadabby. In the video below, Julia sings the show's iconic theme song with Abby.
In this video, Julia flaps her arms around, and she and Abby pretend to be butterflies:
In this one, they play with bubbles:
And in this one, they invent a new game, Boing Boing Tag:
But Abby isn't her only friend on "Sesame Street." In this clip, she sings "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" with Elmo:
And in this video, she and Elmo play peek-a-boo, and also educate kids on how to play side by side.
The puppeteer behind Julia is actually the mom of an autistic child herself: "The 'Meet Julia' episode is something that I wish my son's friends had been able to see when they were small," Stacey Gordon told the AP. "I remember him having meltdowns and his classmates not understanding how to react."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.