A new muppet is joining Sesame Street’s ranks. Her name is Julia, and she has autism.
As Vulture reports, Julia was introduced on tonight’s 60 Minutes, after first appearing in a 2015 Digital Storybook as a playmate for Elmo and Abby. Now realized in corporeal muppet form, she will become a regular on the classic children’s show in April 2017.
In an effort to incorporate neurodiversity, Sesame Street will explain Julia’s autism with sensitive casualness when she first appears on the show. Upon meeting Big Bird, she will at first be reluctant to shake his hand. Elmo then explains to their feathered leader that Julia has autism and, thus, “sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things.”
According to some researchers, autism is underdiagnosed in girls, making Julia’s gender all the more significant. Writers for the show also took pains not to generalize, but rather to emphasize the nuances of neurodiversity, as they crafted Julia’s character.
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing,” explains Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro, “because it is different for every single person who has autism.”