In 2017, the long running children’s television show, Sesame Street introduced a new character as a way to explain autism. Julia is painting alongside some other friends (all muppets), when Big Bird approaches the group. Known for its delicate and honest handling of sensitive topics, Sesame Street has previously created characters and scenarios to address race, poverty, and death. Big Bird initially has trouble understanding Julia’s different actions until Alan (the human character) explains what autism is like for Julia. Through the segment, Big Bird learns that he can be friends and have fun with Julia, despite her differences, and that autism can be different depending on the person. In the end, all the characters break into an inclusive song, “we can all be friends,” illustrating that we all have things that make us unique individuals.
Why does Alan indicate that Julia likes when people knows she has autism? Why did Sesame Street include that line?
How are we made aware of Julia’s disability? What are some of the different ways she experiences and responds to various situations?
What does Big Bird learn about Julia and himself in playing tag?
What do we learn about autism through Julia’s character? What do we learn about how we might interact with someone who has a disability?