Meet Julia, an old buddy of Elmo’s and the newest friend on Sesame Street. Schaeffer’s role on “Sesame Street” would spark a discussion about accessibility on-set. Sesame Street first created Julia as an online character in 2015 as part of a broader initiative to provide parents with educational resources on autism. The Muppets are a group of puppet characters created by Jim Henson, many for the purpose of appearing on the children's television program Sesame Street.Henson's involvement in Sesame Street began when he and Joan Ganz Cooney, one of the creators of the show, met in the summer of 1968, at one of the show's five three-day curriculum planning seminars in Boston. By Elizabeth Blair • Oct 22, 2015 . Bove’s character would introduce children to sign language but, more importantly, her character would become a series regular on “the Street,” eventually developing a romantic relationship with fellow “Sesame Street” regular Bob (Bob McGrath). But to watch “Pelswick” during its brief run in 2000 was to see a disabled character for kids that was witty, frank, and honest. Most importantly, he was the leading character of the entire series. Sesame Street: Meet Julia. There’s a need for voice actors with disabilities to voice disabled characters. On 21 September, ‘Sesame Workshop’, NGO behind ‘Sesame Street’ released a collection of videos and resources that are designed to help children with autism and their families cope with new norms due to the Covid pandemic. 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Just two years after it debuted, “Sesame Street” broke barriers by casting deaf actress Linda Bove — who you might remember as Allison in that very special episode of “Happy Days” — as a character of the same name. “It was very important that Dave be an equal partner,” Stein said. Four years ago, Sesame Street introduced Julia, its first new Muppet in 10 years. Sesame Street recognized that this awareness should start at an early age and created a puppet named Julia who is friends with Elmo and who has autism. Many people gained their first exposure to sign language—and deafness itself—from Linda, a human character Sesame Street introduced in 1972. Her name is Julia and she has autism. Other characters have tackled disability head-on, from blindness to disability to autism — but what’s important is showcasing those character in stories that don’t confront disability in the same overt manner. I talked in the first part of this series about watching “The Wild Thornberries” as a kid and seeing the character of Bethany, who used a wheelchair. So Julia joins a long line of Sesame Street characters with disabilities, but she’s the first to have a disability that can’t be easily recognized. But some of our favorite Muppets on the show have stepped up to deal with major social issues. Here are a few movies and television shows that proudly feature characters with disabilities! “When we brought on Christopher Reeve there was a lot of discussion about that,” Truglio said. Jason (Down syndrome), Sesame Street. This Article is related to: Television and tagged Animation, Sesame Street. Ironically, Tinkler never had the opportunity to meet Callahan, who died in 2010, nor did he know the artist was actually in a wheelchair. The goal of creating Julia was to portray what having autism is like. She serves to help children be more accepting of people with autism and promote disability awareness in children. He also co-wrote the lyrics to "Count Me In" with his mother. In case you missed it, one of the nation’s oldest and most beloved children’s television programs has taken a huge step towards inclusion of children with disabilities. Stein calls it “casual representation” and it’s something the team behind “Madagascar: A Little Wild” have been using for their deaf character of Dave, whose sister, Pickles, is his interpreter. Beggar (uses a crutch), The Muppet Christmas Carol. Jason can be seen on “Sesame Street” counting, spelling and hanging out with his Muppet friends in 55 episodes in the 1970s. Kami (HIV positive), Takalani Sesame (also appears on Sesame Square and The Adventures of Kami and Big Bird) Long John Silver (amputee), Muppet Treasure Island. Copyright © 2021 Penske Business Media, LLC. 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Julia (Autism), Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. “And it’s really about who makes our community.” Disabled characters would show up here and there on other children’s shows, like Jeff Erlanger’s memorable turn on a 1981 episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but Bove was the first to become a permanent resident next to Big Bird and company and she’d spark more appearances by other disabled characters and real-life people, including the late Christopher Reeve. As time moves forward, young children who watch “Sesame Street” will become familiar with autism through the Julia character. Kingsley appeared in several Muppet & Kid Moments. But Reeve, along with his son Will, not only were able to show kids how wheelchairs help people who need them, but became a wonderful moment for father and son to have a frank talk about disability. Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Interviews with leading film and TV creators about their process and craft. I can name currentcharacters on one hand: Sesame Street, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, introduced a muppet with autism, Julia, just two years ago. Tom (1970–1972) Larry Block: Worked at Hooper's Store. On other occasions, however, particularly in productions featuring The Muppet Show characters, certain disabilities (especially partial deafness) have been played for laughs. The PBS series “Arthur,” based on the series of children’s books by Marc Brown, first touched on disability in 1996 when they showed series regular Buster needing glasses. In 1988 “Sesame Street” would introduce Katie, a Muppet character who uses a wheelchair, but it wasn’t until 1994 that an actual child using a wheelchair would become a member of “the Street.” Schaeffer’s inclusion was spearheaded by longtime “Sesame Street” writer Emily Kingsley, whose son Jason — who had Down Syndrome — would write the iconic “Sesame Street” song “Count Me In” in 2000. “In an animated world there’s no reason not to [include disabled characters],” said Johanna Stein, executive producer of the animated kids’ show “Madagascar: A Little Wild.” Because an animated show creates everything from scratch, there’s no reason not to fill it with more disabled characters than you’d find anywhere else. Looking at the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” website made a difference for parents, whether or not they were personally affected by the developmental disability, according to findings published late last month in the journal Autism. In children’s programming the goal isn’t to make every disabled narrative turn into “event programming.” In the “Arthur” episode “The Princess Problem,” wheelchair user Lydia Fox and Arthur’s little sister D.W. are talking about a group of superhero princesses. "Sesame Street" is the latest to join a relatively short list of TV shows that have included a character with a disability. Over the years, Sesame Street, its international spin-offs, and other Muppet productions have incorporated a variety of "differently abled" characters (and celebrity guests) as role models and to show that physical differences are less important than shared feelings and friendships. "It's important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like," Julia's puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, told Sixty Minutes. In 1988 “Sesame Street” would introduce Katie, a Muppet character who uses a wheelchair, but it wasn’t until 1994 that an actual child using a wheelchair would become a … “[Someone might say] ‘Yeah, I know, but it’s just a couple of lines.’ But this is a couple of lines that would mean a lot to somebody who could play this,” he said. Some other examples include Jason Kingsley, who has Down syndrome—he appeared in over 50 Sesame Street episodes. The makers of “Sesame Street” say Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Grover are getting a new friend with autism as part of an effort to reduce stigma and help those on the spectrum learn life skills. You can find Part One in the series here and Part Two here. The Muppets are an internationally recognised troupe of puppet characters that Henson created in the 1960′s, which became an integral part of the children’s television show Sesame Street in 1969. “We never wanted to point to it [Dave’s] disability,” Stein said. Never did I assume it was because I was disabled. In the case of “Arthur,” the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided funding to native Alaskan writers to work on “Molly of Denali,” an animated kids show produced by the same production company as “Arthur.” Greenwald says that search galvanized them to do more and they hope they can receive more funding to bring on disabled writers. Since that time the loveable characters have appeared on their own TV show, feature films, … Pickles and Dave from “Madagascar: A Little Wild”. “What I really loved [about the character] was his eternally positive yet acerbically comedic way,” Tinkler told IndieWire. To celebrate, we’ve created a list of 50 Sesame Street characters, like Bert, Ernie, the Count, and Oscar the Grouch, including when they all made their debut. Many assumed Reeve’s wheelchair would be too scary for children. When Ben Lehmann, executive producer for “Sesame Street,” first arrived on the series, he took note of the large wooden platforms everyone was using. Cartoon makers, who have understood the need for inclusion, are introducing characters with disabilities in their cartoons. Needless to say, Julia is the star in all videos! The first regularly appearing character on Sesame Street who used a wheelchair; served as a positive role model for children with disabilities. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, said the series always has been cognizant of that stigma. Stein is similarly committed: “I say this as much out of a sense of responsibility and as a sense of need but it’s crucial to better programming.”. The “Tarah platforms,” as they’re called, are the width of a wheelchair and can be stacked so that the height can be adjusted for anyone, whether they’re in a wheelchair or not, to be on the same level as the puppets. Julia, “Sesame Street’s” first character with autism, helps children and their families understand people on the spectrum. Jim Henson’s famous creations The Muppets have been entertaining children for decades. Played by Linda Bove, who is … Sign up for our Email Newsletters here. All rights reserved. Children with disability remain a rarity in TV programs. Share Tweet Email Tweet Email Tinkler walked away from many roles, including voice character of color, because of the need to be more diverse in voicework. The Count and Tarah Schaeffer on “Sesame Street”. Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, https://muppet.fandom.com/wiki/Characters_with_disabilities?oldid=1355608. They’ve never solely been focused on introducing disability in children’s lives early — more often than not, they are creating fully-fleshed out characters to help children who might be disabled themselves. While favorites like Big Bird have been on the show since the very first episode in 1969, others, like Elmo, weren’t introduced until years later. Jennifer Thorn, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the English Department of Saint Anselm College answered my questions about Julia and what she can teach us.. Sesame Street had a new muppet join the cast recently. Emily Kingsley, Jason’s mom and a writer for the show, used her experiences with her son to push for more inclusion as an activist for kids with disabilities. It’s often said that children should be shielded from the harsh realities of the world and acknowledging disability becomes part of that conversation. Parents and experts say that this is great initiative. “And they’re noticing differences because they’re trying to figure out the world around them.” Adults, she explained, are the ones generally left uncomfortable, leading them to punish children for their curiosity about differences, which then leads to internalized behavior. Created by disabled cartoonist John Callahan, “Pelswick” was unlike anything children had seen and Tinkler knew it was special. As a disabled writer, I will use both person-first and identity-first language interchangeably for purposes of brevity and clarity. Like many series in the 1970s and 1980s, disability was quickly spotted on children’s shows of the time. Sesame Street is all about teaching important life lessons to kids. Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here. He made his first appearance in 1975,1 and according to the book Street Gang, Kingsley appeared in over 50 episodes of Sesame Street. “It’s just a fact of who Dave is.” The goal, then, becomes to help children model appropriate behavior when they do interact with someone who is disabled, while simultaneously creating representation for disabled children. Take your favorite fandoms with you and never miss a beat. But even in the world of animation and shows aimed at kids, inclusion can be improved upon. In the case of “Arthur” and “Madagascar: A Little Wild,” Stein and Greenwald admit there aren’t disabled writers working on their respective series nor are there animators with disabilities, and it’s something they want to change. Advocates are pleased with the addition and the positive conversation that surrounds the new Muppet. One such actor is Rob Tinkler, who provided the voice of wheelchair user Pelswick on the Nickelodeon cult show of the same name. It wasn’t until after I wrote it that I realized I had an earlier experience: During the first four years of school I was asked constantly if I once had been on “Sesame Street.” I always thought it was cool to hear this, because I assumed they were obviously confusing me with some girl who had brown hair or wore glasses. The probability of a young child having some sort of relationship with someone who is on the autism spectrum is pretty high. Dreamworks Animation’s children series “Spirit Riding Free: Riding Academy,” recently cast wheelchair actress Cassidy Huff to voice the role of Eleanor, a world-class equestrian rider who uses a wheelchair. In the next couple of weeks, Sesame Street is introducing its newest character, Julia, a young girl on the autism spectrum. But, it is an encouraging step that will make children or adults with autism feel less alone. “Sesame Street” led the way and numerous other series have followed suit, especially in the world of animation. 'Sesame Street' Introduces A New Muppet Character With Autism . Looking back on it now, Tinkler said there should have been (and should be) a more thorough search for disabled voice talent. They are taught social distancing and also on how to wear a mask. You will be redirected back to your article in, Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox. When it comes to animation the rules are limitless — and that extends to creating a landscape populated with disability. When a formative program like Sesame Street exposes young children behavior that's common in children with autism, it can help normalize it. The autism spectrum includes a wide range of behaviors and capabilities. “Some carpenter who had been there for 30 years explained ‘Well, they were designed for Tarah,'” Lehmann said. “Babies notice differences,” she told IndieWire. And, Linda Bove, who is deaf, appeared on the show from 1971 to 2003. Carol Greenwald, executive producer for the series, says the show received so many messages from kids that it was a no-brainer to go further. “The Street is grounded in reality,” Truglio said. But the majority of disabled characters are voiced by able-bodied actors. Julia’s introduction on “Sesame Street” has been met with applause and interest. Jason Kingsley (b. The goal, according to Greenwald, is to use these stories to “open a kid’s eyes to the fact that not everybody is represented in these kinds of groups.” Hopefully, those dealing with the same issues can identify. It proved difficult as autism is different for every person who has it. Animation and children’s programming long have been at the forefront of disability representation. “‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ has a 13-year-old girl [Toph] who is blind. It wasn’t until years later that I learned I was being confused with actress Tarah Schaeffer, who was a regular on the series and was a wheelchair user with my same disability. Sesame Street worked with autism organizations including Autism Self Advocacy and Autism Speaks to best personify the traits of a child with autism, according to “60 Minutes.” She is one of the most powerful characters in… Trash Gordon (2004–2007) Roscoe Orman: Spoof of the 1930s superhero Flash Gordon. Sesame, Skoog launch accessible toy To encourage active engagement with content, the Skoog Cube plays songs, games and stories featuring Sesame Street characters. Although not an animation character, I had to mention Sesame Street ‘s new muppet Julia, who has autism. Mandy Mouse in Peppa Pig, Julia in Sesame Street and AJ Gadgets in Hero Elementary are a few of them to begin with which have receieved a lot of hype in recent time. DuckTales on Disney just ran an episode featuring Della Duck, an amputee .Last fall an IT entrepreneur with cerebral palsy debuted a superhero with CP . 6. Lydia no longer likes the group because there isn’t a character who uses a wheelchair. The show wanted to avoid tokenizing Dave, or making him the stock disabled character.