NEW YORK — For nearly 50 years, fans have grown to love Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie on “Sesame Street.”
Now, the children’s television show will be adding a new character with autism on its show, the first muppet with a developmental disability.
The muppet, named Julia, was first announced on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday night. Julia, who has yellow skin, orange hair and holds a toy rabbit, will make her debut on the show in April.
The show worked with autism organizations to bring the character to life, “Sesame Street” writer Christine Ferraro told CBS. “Sesame Street” often works with educators and child psychologists when developing new muppets.
The writers and organizations talked about which characteristics to give Julia that would best “normalize autism for all children.”
“There is an expression that goes, ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.’” Ferraro said.
“I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on “Sesame Street” who has autism. I would like her to be just Julia.”
Julia will be voiced by Stacey Gordon, a mother from Phoenix who has a son with autism. Gordon told CBS she used experiences she had with her own son to accurately portray the character.
“It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like,” Gordon said.
Today, 1 in 45 children have autism in the United States, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey said.
“Sesame Street” hopes having Julia as a character will help children understand their fellow peers with autism in real life.
The show also hopes to make Julia a reoccurring character, Ferraro said.
“Sesame Street” first aired in 1969 as an experimental TV show that’s an educational tool to children. The show now airs on HBO and PBS.