NEW YORK (KDKA) – Meet Julia, the newest character on Sesame Street.
“Hi Julia. I’m Big Bird. Nice to meet you,” says the show’s famous star.
Julia is a 4-year-old with autism.
“I think it’s fantastic. I think any awareness is great,” says Jennifer Salamon with Autism Connection.
Salamon is mom to an 11-year-old with autism, a neurological disease that runs the spectrum.
“You have everything from a child like mine who cannot speak and goes to a school with autism, all the way up to people who can speak who are very smart. Maybe they’re just considered quirky, and then there’s everything in between,” Salamon told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Monday.
Julia the Muppet is in between. She speaks a little bit, repeats herself, reacts to loud noises, and flaps her hands in distress.
“When she gets upset, she flaps her hands, so she has two separate set of arms,” said the puppet designer. “She has a set of arms that does this, and then she has a set of arms when she is fine and okay.”
Salamon says it helps create acceptance in young children.
“There may be a child in their pre-school who acts a little bit differently or maybe doesn’t talk as much as the other children.”
“Certainly when you get to elementary school there are going to be children with autism there, but Ii also think it’s good for children with autism to see a Muppet just like them.”
It’s not just children who will learn from watching this program. Parents who watch Sesame Street with their kids are going to come away with a much better understanding of autism.
And more accepting of different families.
“Our normal is just a little bit different than everyone else’s,” adds Salamon.
Or as the Muppets sing, “It feels a little better when we all play together. We can all be friends.”