Julia, a Muppet with autism, made her first appearance on “Sesame Street” Monday and the longstanding children’s show posted a 10-minute clip to mark the occasion.
Julia is an old buddy of Elmo’s and has already been a staple online and in printed books since making her debut in 2015, but today is her first time on the TV show. Advocates say they hope Julia will help young “Sesame Street” fans and their parents learn more about people with autism.
About 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has been identified with autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Autism spectrum disorder can affect children and adults from all different backgrounds, and people with autism “may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people,” according to the CDC. In Julia’s “Sesame Street” debut, she helps the other Muppets and people understand how even though she communicates differently, she can still be their friend.
In the clip, the gang is fingerpainting when Big Bird is introduced to Julia. After she doesn’t immediately respond to his greeting and questions about what she is painting, host Alan Muraoka explains that it might take Julia a little longer to answer.
Throughout the show, Alan is the viewers’ guide to understanding Julia and what makes children like her special.
“It helps to ask again,” Alan patiently explains to Big Bird.
Then Julia proudly shows off her painting.
“I love it. It’s so fun and silly,” Abby Cadabby says. “Julia, you’re so creative!”
Big Bird continues to try to interact with Julia, but she doesn’t respond. After Big Bird wonders if maybe it’s because she doesn’t like him, Alan explains that Julia has autism. He also lets young viewers know what that means.
“For Julia, it means she might not answer you right away,” the host explains. “And she may not do what you expect, like give you a high five.”
Abby adds that Julia does things a little differently, and that’s totally OK. “And she’s a lot of fun!” Abby adds.
“Julia likes being with her friends and she loves to play too!” Elmo chimes in.
The gang then plays tag and welcomes Julia into the group. Big Bird is filled in on all of the things that make Julia special.
“It doesn’t matter how they play, they are just a bunch of friends having fun,” the host adds.
“I think I’d like to be a friend of Julia’s too!” Big Bird says.
Watch the full clip above.