NEW YORK — The newest resident of “Sesame Street” has orange hair and a fondness for her toy rabbit.
She also has autism.
Julia has been a part of the “Sesame Street” family via its storybooks and was so popular that the decision was made to add the character to the TV series.
On Sunday viewers got to meet her during a “60 Minutes” segment.
“I think the big discussion right at the start was, ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?,'” one of the show’s writers, Christine Ferraro, told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl.
Over the almost five decades “Sesame Street” has been on the air, it has established a reputation for inclusion with its characters.
Joan Ganz Cooney , one of the founders of the Children’s Television Workshop which developed “Sesame Street,” said it has also not been afraid to deal with real life issues including the death of a beloved character, Mr. Hooper in 1983.
“Sesame Street had always dealt with the real,” she said. ” And it was real, and so we decided not to just replace him and call the man Mr. Hooper and hope they didn’t notice.”
Julia’s debut episode will deal with what autism can look like. The brain disorder can make it difficult for sufferers to communicate with and relate to others.
The character of Big Bird talked to Stahl about his first interaction with Julia in which she ignored him.
“I thought that maybe she didn’t like me,” he said.
“Yeah, but you know, we had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird,” the Elmo character added. ” It’s just that Julia has autism. So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.”
Ferraro hopes that along with educating viewers about autism the new character will settle in as a part of the neighborhood.
“I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism,” the writer said. “I would like her to be just Julia.”