Special Needs Now

'Sesame Street' Masterfully Tackles the Subject of Autism in First Episode With New Character Julia

Julia is different, and wonderful, and so much more in her first appearance on Sesame Street.

We finally get to see 4-year-old Julia—Sesame Street's long-anticipated first character with autism—in action in a new episode of the iconic children's show.

Right away, we see how when Big Bird introduces himself to Julia, she doesn't react at first, and instead, continues finger-painting with Abby Cadabby and Elmo. "Julia's just concentrating on her painting right now," explains Alan.

Abby then comments on liking how paint squishes in her hands, and Julia recoils, suggesting she has sensory issues common to autism. Alan points out that Julia prefers to use a paint brush so she doesn't have to touch the paint. It takes her a while to answer a question, as well, and Alan notes it helps to ask her again.

We also learn about Julia's strengths, like that she's a talented artist.

Common misunderstandings about autism are addressed when Big Bird tells Alan, "I don't think Julia likes me very much." That's when the adult explains what autism is. For Julia. Which I really love, because he doesn't make generalizations about the condition. I also love how the episode is careful to talk about both the things that may seem confusing about autism and what makes Julia a lot of fun.

Ultimately, as Abby explains, Julia just does things differently, in her own way. Of course, Julia encounters some challenges because of her autism. When an emergency vehicle goes by, it greatly upsets the little girl. The situation is made worse when Big Bird tags her for a game. "Break, break," she starts chanting.

"Her ears are really sensitive, so some sounds are just too loud for her," Abby tells an upset Big Bird while Alan helps Julia calm down via breathing exercises and with the assistance of her favorite stuffed bunny. And then she's ready to play again!

Watch until the end to see a catchy song about friends all being different and amazing! Bravo, Sesame Street.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom of 4. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.