Sesame Street has been a show that, from the moment it aired in 1969, has touched on many different subjects. Whether these subjects be something about a school subject or just learning how to be kind to others, the characters of Sesame Street are always teaching children. While the show is educational, it does have humor and story lines. It is a show unlike any other. Just when we thought that our good pals Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and others could not teach us anymore, they proved us wrong.
The creators of Sesame Street are doing something extraordinary. They are bringing in Julia. Who is Julia you may ask? Well, she is a wide eyed little girl who just happens to have autism. While Julia is not the first autistic fictional character on television, Michael Robb, Director of Research for Common Sense Media, an organization that rates and reviews media aimed at children, says Sesame Street‘s move is “pretty groundbreaking.” “It can be difficult to start a conversation about children with disabilities. It’s even harder when that difference isn’t visible,” he says.
What Robb has stated is absolutely true. Children are curious, so when they see someone with a disability, they ask them, “What’s wrong with you?” This is not them trying to be mean, but they just do not understand. Children, however, are not the only ones that do not understand disabilities; some adults really just do not know. This is why I think bringing Julia to the show is a great idea. Julia is going to help children understand others that are unlike them. She is going to help teach them that not everyone learns the same way. She is going to teach children something that not even their parents can teach them.
This is an even bigger statement for the autistic community. As far as I know, there is not a children’s show out there that has a character with autism. By putting Julia on the show, autistic children will have someone to relate to. Most of the time, and this is coming from a personal experience of having family members with autism, they state they are lonely. If able, autistic children will voice when they are upset because the other children do not want to play with them, because they are different or because they are being bullied. Did you know that autistic children are bullied five times more than children without autism? This is why Julia is needed.
While Julia is a fantastic role model for the autistic community in itself, she is also an even greater role model for the girls with autism. Autism is five times more prevalent in boys than it is in girls. So, Julia is also raising awareness for girls with autism, too.
So congrats Sesame Street, and thank you. Thank you for always thinking of ways to teach children how to learn and how to love, but also doing it in your own special way. Thank you for bringing Julia into town with the hopes of showing children that others with autism are just normal human beings, but have something just a little extra special about them. Thank you for raising awareness on autism: we needed it.