Julia, Sesame Street’s First Muppet With Autism, to Make Her Debut

julia sesame street

RachelKiser_200TallRachel Kiser
Blogger | Mom of Two


For nearly fifty years now, Sesame Street has been a staple for American children and their families. Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, they’re all household names. Hum the theme song in public and those around you are sure to name that tune. And through it, our country has seen the power of normalizing acts like breastfeeding, or opening up discussions about poverty, disability, and now, the Autism Spectrum.

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Meet Julia, Sesame Street’s first muppet with autism. Julia avoids eye contact, flaps her arms, and becomes overwhelmed at loud noises. She was originally introduced as a part of an online initiative in 2015, so viewers may already be familiar with this playful redheaded puppet. And now, this season, Julia will begin to join her friends on Sesame Street’s television broadcast.

Rollie Krewson, one of Jim Henson’s most skilled and experienced puppet designers, is in charge of crafting Julia’s appearance. “Her eyes had to be a certain way because she has to have an intense look, but she has to look friendly,” Krewson says. She also goes on to explain that Julia has no adornments on her loose-fitting clothing, and her hairstyle is kept short and out of her face to minimize frustration and sensory overload.

What makes Julia even more special is the woman who quite literally sets her into motion; her puppeteer. Stacey Gordon is not only a puppeteer and a puppet maker, she’s also mother to a child with autism. When she heard of the opportunity, she jumped on it, despite it being a longshot.

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“As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the “Sesame Street” age,” Gordon says. The impact will be tremendous, no doubt about it. Families have turned to Sesame Street for generations in order to start conversations and teach important life lessons. With an estimated 1 in 68 American children having autism, there is no better time than now to show the public what it’s like to interact with these special people among us.

“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,” says Gordon. “They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s OK.”

Often we parents use television as a tool for everyone in the house to get a break and relax. With shows like Sesame Street on the air, though, maybe it’s time to take these teaching moments as they come. It’s very likely that our children will make a new friend who is a lot like Julia someday. Preparing them now for how to be friends with someone who interacts differently with the world would be a benefit to everyone.



RachelKiser_200TallAbout Rachel Kiser

Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.

View all posts by Rachel Kiser here.

12 Comments on “Julia, Sesame Street’s First Muppet With Autism, to Make Her Debut”

  1. What a great addition to Sesame Street. It is beneficial to children with autism to see someone on Sesame Street who copes with similar difficulties. Also, it seems that other children would benefit from the exposure to special needs characters.

    1. I agree, Jean! I definitely want my kids to see examples of people who process things differently than them, and how others around them can relate to their needs best.

  2. I’m so happy to see Julia on Sesame Street! I loved Sesame Street as a child, as did my children. I have a nephew with autism, he is older now but I’m sure he would have enjoyed watching Sesame Street with Julia. She is a fantastic addition to a wonderful tv show!

    1. If only Julia had been added onto the show sooner, I’m sure your nephew would have loved seeing bits of himself in her! I agree. Sesame Street is amazing!

  3. I watched Sesame as a child , so did my children and now my grandson. They always teach such great lessons and a joy to watch.

    1. You’re so right, Sherry! How fun that multiple generations of your family have enjoyed the same muppets for so long. I love it!

  4. I agree with you that I wish Julia had come along years ago. Our grand-daughter is autistic, and her actions were sometimes confusing to her cousins. Would have made it easier to explain. Now, with much intervention and work, you would never know this about her.

    1. That’s such a great ending to the story, Jeane! So glad that your granddaughter has learned and grown so much through intervention. The more we talk about these things, the more helpful we can all be as a community.

  5. I think this is a great idea to introduce autism characters to help children understand someone who has it, or to have someone to look up to that has what they have. Can`t wait to see the programs.

  6. I loved Sesame Street as a child and so did my kids. Honestly they taught many important life lessons has you mentioned.

    1. It’s so fun to go back and watch clips of the older seasons of Sesame Street! They’ve always been pioneers in dealing with social issues. So happy our kids (and grandkids) get to benefit now, too, Kathy!

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