Get to Know Julia, Sesame Street’s First Character With Autism

Julia has helped kids—and adults—around the world understand the condition.

Sesame street characters

Updated on October 17, 2023.

In April 2017, the children’s television program Sesame Street introduced a new Muppet for the first time in ten years.

Julia, the gang’s shy friend, loves flowers, paints remarkable pictures, and often repeats what other cast members say. Julia has autism, and she has helped kids and adults around the world better understand this condition, which affects one out of every 36 children in the United States.

In April 2019, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, the beloved children’s show expanded Julia’s world to include her entire family. In an episode that premiered on April 8th, 2019, viewers were introduced to Julia’s older brother Sam, her mom Elena (an art teacher), her dad Daniel (who plays the saxophone), and her companion dog, Rose.

Sesame Workshop, Sesame Street’s parent company, developed Julia’s character over the course of three years with help from 14 autism advocacy groups. The introduction of Julia’s family was also timed to coincide with Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative.

The team behind Sesame Street recognizes that there’s no one autism experience. But the concept behind developing Julia and her family was to create characters who will be relatable to most children on the spectrum and their loved ones. Sesame Street’s producers hope that Julia will encourage other kids to empathize with and accept children who have autism as well.

“Children with autism often face unique challenges, as do their parents and siblings,” said Sherrie Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop in a press release. “But every family faces challenges of some sort, which is why we are focusing on what all families have in common.”

Julia’s new friends welcomed her to the neighborhood right away and appreciated the things that make her unique.

“Julia has autism,” Elmo told Good Morning America in April 2019. “And that makes Julia different. But it’s really cool that everybody’s a little bit different but same, too. And Elmo and Julia have a lot in common, and we have a lot of fun together.”

Learn more about autism, including information about symptoms, diagnosis, and living with autism.

Photo Information: © 2019 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved. Photo Credit: Richard Termnine. Julia is the third Muppet from the left.

Article sources open article sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disorder. Last Reviewed: April 4, 2023.
Juneau, Jen. 'Sesame Street' Introduces Julia's Whole Family in Honor of Autism Awareness Month. People. April 1, 2019.

More On

Can people with autism improve their social skills?

video

Can people with autism improve their social skills?
Watch as licensed psychologist and autism specialist Dr. Ronald Leaf discusses how people with autism can improve their social skills.
What Really Increases the Risk for Autism—and It's Not Vaccines

article

What Really Increases the Risk for Autism—and It's Not Vaccines
Sex, genetics, and pregnancy complications may have an effect, but that's not all.
How can I help my child with autism to become self sufficient?

video

How can I help my child with autism to become self sufficient?
Watch this Ask the Experts video as licensed psychologist and autism specialist Dr. Ronald Leaf discusses how parents can help their child with autism...
How can I help my child with autism have better relationships?

video

How can I help my child with autism have better relationships?
Watch as licensed psychologist and autism specialist Dr. Ronald Leaf discusses how parents can help their child with autism to have better relationshi...
Man with autism opens coffee shop after struggling with employment

video

Man with autism opens coffee shop after struggling with employment
21-year old Michael Coyne opened up his own coffee shop after being turned away for employment in his hometown.