'60 Minutes' Introduces 'Sesame Street''s New Muppet, a Girl With Autism

Julia was first introduced in 2015 as part of an online-only Digital Storybook story called "Sesame Street and Autism: See the unbelievable in all children", in which she has a playdate with Elmo and Abby.

Long-running children's television show "Sesame Street" is welcoming a new kid to the block: a Muppet with autism called Julia. And it sounds like the other muppets on Sesame Street agree: When Big Bird says "I'd like to be friends with Julia too" in one of the show's new promos, an enthusiastic Elmo adds, "She's really special to us".

"In the US, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder", Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of USA social impact at Sesame Workshop, told the Associated Press.

The Sesame Street campaign aims to reduce the stigma associated with Autism as well as introduce a better understanding of the condition. The other characters do not make fun of Julia for this odd reaction, but rather make it a part of their game.

Explaining the reasoning behind bringing on the new character, Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro said that it's an effort to help normalize interactions between children. Several social media users said that the show embracing Autism awareness is a great initiative for children. "I would like her to be just Julia".

Although it's not clear whether Julia will become a major character, "I would love her to be", Ferarro confessed. When the two are introduced by pals Abby and Elmo, Julia is hesitant to shake Big Bird's hand.

Several beloved Sesame Street characters opened up to 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl about their first interaction with Julia.

The Julia character has been featured in "Sesame Street"-branded digital content since previous year". When she's excited, she flaps her arms around, and loud noises like sirens startle her and require a break from playtime.

But to meet their goal of having Julia accepted as one of the gang, the team also committed to teaching kids how to play with her.

Instead, Julia is shown to be unique and someone who could be any kid's friend. In order to get the message across more clearly, the projects' leaders enlisted the help of Stacey Gordon, who is a puppeteer as well as a mother to a child with autism.

"Confused, Big Bird thinks, "Maybe she didn't like me".

"All children with autism are different, but they do have characteristics which are common". They introduced divorce when Abby talked about her parents living in different houses. "So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things".

Called Julia, the character with orange hair and a toy rabbit will debut on the U.S. show in April.

  • Ernesto Newman