Moving From Awareness to Understanding

Sesame+Street%27s+newest+Muppet+Julia%2C+joined+by+Abby+and+Elmo.
Sesame Street's newest Muppet Julia, joined by Abby and Elmo.

Sesame Street's newest Muppet Julia, joined by Abby and Elmo.

Photo by Zach Hyman, Courtesy of Sesame Workshop

Photo by Zach Hyman, Courtesy of Sesame Workshop

Sesame Street's newest Muppet Julia, joined by Abby and Elmo.

Erika Carlson, Features Reporter

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Prowl photos by Manuel Carlos

 

This week on Sesame Street, a new Muppet made her television debut.

Here at Weston Ranch, students joined staff members to turn the cafeteria blue for the month.

All of this, in the name of awareness.    

To mark the start of new April episodes, Elmo and Big Bird welcomed Julia, a unique young Muppet who started out in Sesame Street’s children books a few years ago. Julia’s popularity with parents as well as children prompted work on a 3-D creation for SD and HD. Julia’s very presence led to need for conversation and education between the adults on Sesame Street and the childlike Muppets about what makes Julia stand out: autism.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Julia’s condition and her debut on this staple of children’s television can remind us about how we view difference between one another.

From Sesame Street to McCuen Avenue, April may be the perfect time to forgo first impressions and spend the time it takes to understand what makes everyone unique.  This need for education and understanding is not limited to mental and emotional expressions but also includes those of a different races, ethnicities, genders or religions. How do we judge others in a split-second by their countenance and more-so, overall appearance, sans conversation?

It’s facile to look at others and form conclusions about who they are or judge their behavior to form instant opinions. Often, we need to give people a second chance for a first impression.

We need to listen and learn. Not everyone is as open-minded as they say they are. It’s rare to find a verbal abdicate to acclaim “Destroy the gays.”  Those are words. It’s sticks and stones, bats and chains, that get people beaten and murdered for who they are.

Of course, it is presumptuous of me, to hope that a simple article could change someone’s views, but I challenge you to challenge yourself and learn about people who are different than you.

Beyond Math, beyond English, schools should provide courses that explain differences to go beyond those frightened or awkward stages of asking sensitive questions to learn and to understand others.

Why are people different? How did they become that way? Why do they behave in that manner?  

It’s normal to ask these questions. It’s OK to start asking questions like Big Bird asked about Julia. Big Bird tries to talk to Julia. She doesn’t answer. Big Bird wonders if Julia doesn’t like him. Then, the adult on Sesame Street, Alan, explained to the yellow-feathered Muppet, why Julia did not respond immediately.

“She might not answer you right away,” Alan said.  

Alan said that Julia may not do what other children might do. Then, Alan asked Big Bird to have patience and understanding.

Whether on Sesame Street or in Weston Ranch, if we reach out to people with patience and understanding, we might not get answers right away but the responses will be worth the wait.   

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