Folks on Sesame Street have a way of making everyone feel accepted. That certainly goes for Julia, a Muppet youngster with blazing red hair, bright green eyes—and autism. Rather than being treated like an outsider, often the plight of kids on the spectrum, Julia is one of the gang, reports the AP. On this friendliest of streets, Julia is about to play a game with Oscar, Abby, and Grover as these Muppet chums have been challenged to spot objects shaped like squares or circles or triangles. "You're lucky," says Abby to Grover. "You have Julia on your team, and she is really good at finding shapes!" Joining her pals, Julia (performed by Stacey Gordon) takes off in search. "We're modeling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share," says a Sesame Workshop exec.
Julia makes her TV debut on Sesame Street in the "Meet Julia" episode airing April 10 on both PBS and HBO. Additional videos featuring Julia will be online. It was with keen interest that Gordon first learned of Julia more than a year ago. "I said, 'If she's ever a puppet, I want to BE Julia!'" Gordon has a son with autism, and, before she started her family, was a therapist to youngsters on the spectrum. "The 'Meet Julia' episode is something that I wish my son's friends had been able to see when they were small," says Gordon, whose son is now 13. "I remember him having meltdowns and his classmates not understanding how to react." Gordon says she's having a blast on the show, but, "at the same time, I come at this with a reverence. I don't want to let the autism community down." (Sesame Street once featured a Donald Trump muppet.)