Julia, the muppet with autism, joins Sesame Street's TV show

Julia, the muppet with autism, will join the Sesame Street TV show in April. She appeared last night on 60 minutes during an interview segment with Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro. From NPR:

"The character Julia, she has wonderful drawing skills. She's like a little budding artist," said Rose Jochum, director of internal initiatives at the Autism Society of America, which characterizes itself as the nation's oldest advocacy group for people with the disorder. "You know — autism — it brings wonderful gifts..."

"It's not like there is a typical example of an autistic child, but we do believe that [with] Julia, we worked so carefully to make sure that she had certain characteristics that would allow children to identify with her," (Sesame Workshop executive vice president Sherrie) Westin said. "It's what Sesame does best, you know: Reaching children, looking at these things through their lens and building a greater sort of sense of commonality."

Here's the 60 Minutes segment script.

And more about puppet designer Rollie Krewson.

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  1. As a young'un, none of the muppets on Seasme Street tended to act as I would expect, which I found quite understandable on account of how they were monsters.

    But things are not as they once were.

  2. This is wonderful. The ableist bigotry a lot of more neurotypical members of society, even those who don't understand their disdain is based in ignorance and wouldn't think of themselves as willfully prejudiced, openly display for autistic adults is disheartening. But the anti-autistic prejudice is hardest on children who haven't had years of learning how to cope with it coming from adults as well as neurotypical children who learn the prejudice from their parents. Anything that helps neurotypicals understand that autism isn't some kind of emotional underdevelopment, that autists brains physically perceive stimulus differently, is beneficial. I hope adults, especially those who are likely to interact with autistic children, learn something from Julia as well.

  3. I wish I had something stronger to say about this, but I really don't. It's good that more people are talking about autism, but it's still a huge uphill battle. Neurotypicals don't really understand the extent to which we have to warp everything we do to suit their needs.

  4. I was diagnosed HFA as a child (though that diagnosis has since been removed from the DSM, and don't get me started on that mess), so after decades of practice I can "pass" as neurotypical in most temporary casual situations. But I also know what it actually feels like to have a brain that processes sensory information differently. I do believe many (maybe most) neurotypicals aren't intentionally hateful of autists, but with mental disabilities in general there's a sense with a lot of people that since they can't see it like they can see cancer or autoimmune symptoms, it's all just an act or excuse and that the solution is just to man-up and stop being difficult for them to interact with on their terms. I've encountered the same crap with clinical depression.

    I do think that someday neurologists will map the circuits that cause our brains to process sensory information differently than most of society, and we'll have the smoking gun that blood tests and biopsies serve as for other difficult medical conditions. There will still be assholes, but the well-meaning neurotypicals who don't understand will finally have physical tests they can look at, and I do think it will help. Until then, laudable efforts such as Julia are our best hope, IMHO.

  5. Same, except I'm not so sure how well I can pass. Trying to pass only wears me out, and clinical depression makes it even harder for me. That being said, there are no obvious physical markers that I am autistic, and not even any visual shorthand, except for the already initiated.

    It still blows people's minds that autistic people process information differently, including sensory information. You'd think that would be obvious by now, but nothing's obvious. Maybe they aren't sure exactly how different things are for us. I'm not even sure how different they are, and it's shoved in my face all the time.

    I think in order for people to see disability, they have to see really really painfully obvious signs of disability, or at least a good visual shorthand. There really isn't one for autism, or at least there isn't one that can't be explained away by other stuff.

    Could be, but I suspect that they will find that something like 20-50% of the population has subclincal autism symptoms. When that happens, the assholes will just assume that severely autistic people just have mild autistic traits but no willpower :rage:

    Hopefully. There is certainly more of a conversation now than there was, even though there's still a ways to go. I'll take any media depiction, as long as it's reasonably accurate, not pejorative, and not a plot device. However, I've been burned on this before, so I'm still bracing for the possibility of a really cringeworthy autistic character, even though with Julia I have no reason to be.

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