Why Julia, a new 'Sesame Street' muppet, will be important for every family to watch.

Families everywhere are celebrating Julia, the first new "Sesame Street" muppet to go on air in a decade.

Julia — who was first introduced online in 2015 but makes her small screen debut on April 10, 2017 — will fit right in with the rest of the "Sesame Street" gang. She loves to pick flowers, she's an incredible artist, and she can remember all the words to lots of different songs.

Julia also has autism. And that's a big deal.


"We realized if we brought her to life appearing in 'Sesame Street' on air as well [as online], she would have even more impact," Sherrie Westin, an executive vice president at Sesame Workshop, told NPR.

Julia's introductory video features the orange-haired muppet singing "Sunny Days" with fellow muppet Abby Cadabby.

Julia's on screen presence will be a great learning tool for all types of families.

For parents of kids without autism, Julia provides an opportunity for them to talk about peers who may have different abilities and strengths than their own, according to "Sesame Street." For instance, it may be difficult to get Julia's attention at times (as Big Bird recently learned), but she's an excellent artist who often sees things others don't.

For parents of kids who do have autism, Julia gives their kids the invaluable opportunity to see themselves reflected on "Sesame Street." According to Westin, one mom has already used Julia's story as a way to let her 5-year-old daughter know she, too, had been diagnosed with autism — just like Julia.

Utilizing child psychologists and working with autism advocacy groups, "Sesame Street" is careful about how Julia is being portrayed.

About 1 in 68 children are believed to be on the autism spectrum, after all; the series doesn't want to imply Julia reflects the characteristics and experiences of everyone living with autism.  

"It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism," show writer Christine Ferraro told CBS News. "There is an expression that goes, 'If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.'"

On "Sesame Street," though, that one person is Julia — a friendly, flower-picking muppet that's making history. And there's no telling how many hearts will open and perspectives will change after she's welcomed into family rooms across the country.

On February 19, 2020, a group of outdoor adventurists took a 25-day rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During the trip, they had no cell service and no contact with the outside world. When they ended they ended their journey on March 14, the man who pulled them ashore asked if they had been in touch with anyone else. When the rafters said no, the man sighed, then launched into an explanation of how the globe had been gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and everything had come to a screeching halt.

The rafters listened with bewilderment as they were told about toilet paper shortages and the NBA season being canceled and everyone being asked to stay at home. One of the river guides, who had done these kinds of off-grid excursions multiple times, said that they'd often joke about coming back to a completely different world—it had just never actually happened before.

The rafters' story was shared in the New York Times last spring, but they're not the only ones to have had such an experience.

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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

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The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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