|Sesame Street's newest resident|
|Lexi, Julia's ancestor|
For legal reasons, Lexi could not actually be used in Sesame material, however, after taking initiative, a new character was eventually developed specifically to do just as Alexandra wrote about: to help teach children about Autism and to understand more about it and symptoms they may see in Autistic kids. Enter Julia!
Julia was initially created for exclusive web material, such as the above-linked online storybook, WE'RE AMAZING, 1,2,3! Through the storybook, we learn that Julia likes to do a lot of the same things as her friend Elmo, just a little differently; we also learn that she may not respond to someone right away, and that it helps to repeat yourself a few times. We also see some of the symptoms often associated with Autism, such as Julia's hand flapping when she's excited, or the mild panic attack she has when her sensitive ears hear sounds that bother her. The online storybook and other web material featuring Julia went over well enough that it only made sense that she would eventually become an actual Muppet on the show, and it finally happened:
There really are no words for me to describe just how precious this episode is. As always, SESAME STREET handled the subject in an easy to understand, yet straight-forward and to-the-point manner that didn't sugar-coat or water-down the subject to the point of making it sappy or maudlin. This is why a show like SESAME STREET continues to be one of the most endearing and enduring children's shows for forty-seven seasons - despite what some naysayers or old, jaded, and cynical fuddy-duddies may say, SESAME STREET never talks down to kids, but presents their specific educational subjects with humor and heart. Through Big Bird, we learn that Julia may do things differently than other people he or we may know, but that doesn't mean that they can't be friends, and it's certainly heartwarming to see that both Big Bird and Julia are able to make new friends with each other. My personal favorite moment from the episode is Julia's case of the giggles as she sees how small Big Bird looks from up on the roof of the community center.
Again, there's really no words I can use to describe the excellent job they did - you just have to see this episode for yourself. I certainly hope that not only will Julia continue to be seen on the street, and be utilized in other ways to show just how capable she is of doing a lot of the same things as her friends, just in her own Julia sort of way, but that this may help pave the way for further Muppets with disabilities to populate the street.