Sesame Street has been a champion of diversity since it first aired in 1969, and the show continues to expand its cast to reflect all types of families. In 2017, the show introduced a Muppet named Julia, a girl with autism whose message of inclusion and understanding resonates with so many. Now, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Sesame Street is introducing Julia's family to focus on what all families have in common.
As part of its Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative, Sesame Workshop is launching new videos and materials that bring Julia’s parents, big brother, and companion dog to life to highlight experiences all families can relate to, as well as provide tools that help families overcome everyday challenges.
“We’re thrilled to expand Julia’s world with her parents, big brother, and her adorable dog, Rose, in our new resources,” Sherrie Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop said in a statement. “Children with autism often face unique challenges, as do their parents and siblings. But every family faces challenges of some sort, which is why we are focusing on what all families have in common. In a family, everyone has different roles, challenges, and strengths, and everyone can learn from one another.”
As part of the initiative, HBO and PBS will air a Julia-focused episode of Sesame Street on Apr. 8, in which Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Alan help Julia feel less scared about getting a haircut by playing “hair salon.” Until then, viewers can watch some of the original live-action videos starring Julia and her family and friends, including the “I Love My Family” song, which features Julia’s mom, Elena, her father, Daniel, big brother, Samuel, and her dog, Rose all singing a song to celebrate their family. In another video, “Julia’s Family Gets Ready,” Julia’s family is getting ready to attend an open mic night, and through all the hubbub, Julia swoops in to save the day. In “Starfish Hug,” Julia and Samuel help Abby Cadabby get through a tough day by teaching her a new kind of hug.
Young readers can also meet Julia’s family through her online book, Family Forever: A Julia Storybook by Leslie Kimmelman, in which Julia goes on a family picnic to the park and meets up with her friends Elmo and Abby Cadabby. In her new book, Circle of Friends: A Julia Storybook, which releases Apr. 1, Julia goes to summer camp, and on the very first day, she stands up for another camper with autism who is being bullied, and the two become friends. Families can also head to select Barnes & Noble stores on Saturday, Apr. 6, for sensory-friendly story time events featuring the Family Forever storybook and accompanying activities.
As a mom who loved Sesame Street as a child, it’s thrilling to see that the show continues to educate and empower viewers with stories of kindness, empathy, and diversity. And the addition of Julia’s mom, dad, and brother to the Sesame Street family is just another step forward in bringing all kinds of families to a place of common ground and understanding.