Julia, the first Muppet with autism, was able to get to Sesame Street.
The orange-haired, green-eyed puppet, who will be debut on the beloved PBS childhood show in April, made her first appearance on “60 Minutes” Sunday night.
The opening of the episode, which shows Elmo and Abby Cadabby introducing Julia to Big Bird, shows the new girl reluctant to shake hands with the bird.
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism,” said “Sesame Street” writer Christine Ferraro. “There is an expression that goes, ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
“60 Minutes” reporter Lesley Stahl, who joined the episode, spoke to Big Bird and Elmo about helping adjust to how Julia reacts to situations.
“We had to explain to Big Bird that Julia likes Big Bird. It’s just that Julia has autism,” Elmo said. “So sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.”
As for how Julia was created in the Jim Henson Workshop, Rollie Krewson said they had to build two sets of arms for the Muppet: one for when she’s stationary and one for when she’s upset and flaps her arms.
“It means that our kids are important enough to be seen in society. Having Julia on the show and seeing all of the characters treat her with compassion…it’s huge,” she told “60 Minutes.”
“Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s okay.”
The episode wraps up with the characters playing tag. Julia gets so excited that she jumps up and down, which Abby describes as “bouncing like a rubber ball. Boing boing boing.”
“And then it turns into a game where they’re all jumping like her. So it was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation they can meet her where she is,” 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.”