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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Welcoming all to “Sesame Street”

Welcoming all to Sesame Street

The Muppets introduce a character with autism

No matter who you are or where you come from, most people on campus can likely say that they grew up watching “Sesame Street.” The beloved television show has been a quintessential part of growing up in America since its beginnings in 1969 and the show does not plan to slow down any time soon, according to journalist Leslie Stahl. I distinctly remember spending hours in front of the television as a child watching Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Bert, Ernie, and of course, Elmo on their many adventures on the street where it seemed that anything was possible with the help of friends and a little imagination.

Stahl also mentions that “Sesame Street,” which began as an experiment in children’s educational programming, has long inspired children to learn, grow and play, something that is vitally important in today’s very academically driven Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs. It was not until a recent announcement, however, that many in the field of special education began to grow exceedingly interested in the show.

The announcement, which made me extremely excited for the future of children’s television, was that a new Muppet character with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be added to the show. The show’s aim in adding the happy go-lucky Julia to the cast of fluffy friends, according to Stahl, is to promote autism awareness in children and to encourage inclusion and understanding of differences.

As an elementary and special education major, I am thrilled that this character is being included in a show which already supports early literacy and mathematics development in young viewers. I believe that this is a huge step in the right direction for television, because there are so many disabilities and disorders that are common in the real world which are left out of popular cartoons and children’s programming. Children need to be exposed to differences at an early age in order to be able to recognize and appreciate differences in all who they may encounter in school and at playtime.

Although the addition of Julia has the potential to break stigmas and give insight into the lives of those with the disorder, it must also weave its way through some of the obstacles that come with portraying an illness of such a wide spectrum. The show must make it abundantly clear to their young audience that although Julia’s symptoms and behaviors are consistent with some other individuals on the spectrum, she does not by any means represent the entire population of people who suffer from this disorder.

They also must make it a point to show how the other characters on “Sesame Street” come to comprehend her differences and help her have fun and learn despite her disability. Lastly, and most importantly, the show has a huge responsibility to portray Julia’s character as the adorable and intelligent little monster that she is, without placing too much emphasis on her autism in order to let kids know that no matter what challenges a person may encounter in life, we are all called to treat each other with dignity, respect and kindness.

Personally, I do not doubt that the brilliant minds behind the television classic will exceed expectations with this new endeavor. I sincerely wish that Julia is able to become a long-lasting and valued member of the “Sesame Street” gang and that all children are able to relate to her personality, strengths and weaknesses in order to see past the disabilities of individuals while learning acceptance and compassion. I look forward to watching her initiation onto the show and getting to witness how “Sesame Street” is able to incorporate autism awareness into its storylines for children.

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