Monday, December 4, 2017

Why the Team Behind Sesame Street Created a Character with Autism

At first all a toddler sees is a giant yellow bird and a grouch in a trash can. But episode by episode, he or she realizes that Big Bird’s defining characteristic may not, in fact, be his conspicuous height or the hue of his feathers, any more than Oscar can be judged solely by his taste in condominiums. They are defined by an array of human traits, which young viewers somehow recognize with heightened clarity when expressed by puppets. 

Julia has autism, but she also has green eyes and red hair and an artistic temperament. Does autism define her? Isn’t the first thing we tend to notice about people whatever makes them different from us? Sesame’s autism initiative is about fighting this most harmful of human instincts. Its battle cry is “See Amazing in All Children.” Kimmelman’s picture book, We’re Amazing, 1,2,3, helped to introduce Julia to the world in 2015, and soon the board of Sesame Workshop determined that Julia had passed her audition. She’d be moving up to the show. 

Read more at Smithsonian magazine.