Expert: New Sesame Street Character Sends Powerful Message to Community

Julia, a four-year-old character on the autism spectrum, will provide an opportunity to educate viewers about these special members of the community.

For the first time in about 10 years, a new Muppet is taking up permanent residence on “Sesame Street.” Julia, a four-year-old character on the autism spectrum, will provide an opportunity to educate viewers about these special members of the community.

Julia has already been a part of “Sesame Street” storybooks and digital content for a year, and became so popular that a decision was made to add her character to the classic television series.

Julia will debut April 10, appearing in two episodes this season with many more to come.

Expert

Wesley Dotson, assistant professor of educational psychology and co-director of the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research, Texas Tech University College of Education, or (806) 834-0783

Quotes

  • “More people have autism today than ever before. More people today know someone who’s on the autism spectrum than ever before, and awareness has been an important part of how the field has gotten there.”
  • “They don’t just provide quality programming, they typically have quality programming that breaks down boundaries, and so Sesame Street’s had a long history of that and it’s nice to know that they’re including a member of that population. Almost 10 percent of kids are somewhere on the autism spectrum, so knowing “Sesame Street” is representing that in its characters is really exciting.”
  • “I think the choice to have a female character is cool as well because autism is predominately, boys to girls, five times more boys than girls have autism, and so a lot of times girls with autism kind of get lost in the shuffle. All the autism awareness is boys, boys, boys, boys, boys, so I think it was an interesting choice that they made it a female character.”
  • “I think one of the biggest misconceptions about autism is that it is somehow a disability that means you can’t have a life. That’s not the case at all.”
  • “People with autism can get married, they can have a job, they can drive a car, they can live in the community and children with autism can go to school and learn and be just as academically and socially successful as their peers. They just need help to get there.”
  • “When you have a character who appears and shows them a possibility, you’re giving a model, you’re giving something a parent can talk about and say ‘hey, if Julia can do this, you can do this,’ ‘hey, Julia did that, you do that.’”

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The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research

The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research

The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research is a comprehensive, life span center with a three-fold mission:

  • Providing services and support to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families across West Texas and the surrounding area
  • Offering cutting-edge training to teachers, families and other professionals to provide effective and evidence-based services and support to individuals with ASD
  • Conducting significant, sponsored interdisciplinary research to better understand and overcome the lifelong causes and effects of ASD in ways that improve functionality and quality of life for people with ASD and their families 

The Burkhart Center is part of the Texas Tech University College of Education.

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