Monday, April 30, 2018

The New Sesame Street Julia Doll: An Autistic Review

Kris Guin
queerability.tumblr.com

The new Julia toy! Photo courtesy Kris Guin
[image: Stuffed "Julia" doll with orange hair, green eyes, yellow skin,
big happy mouth, pink dress, green pants, and black shoes.]

Sesame Street is a staple in children's television, and has used its platform to educate children about topics that need to be talked about and that children all over experience from racism to incarcerated parents to people with HIV and has shown support the LGBT community. Sesame Street has also included topics about people with disabilities from featuring a child with Downs Syndrome and a child who uses a wheelchair, and, now, Sesame Street has a character on the autism spectrum named Julia.

Sesame Street’s introduction of Julia has given visibility and dignity to autistic people of all ages. She is regularly shown as being accepted by her friends, and it is clear that her being autistic is not something to look down upon, but something to celebrate.

A part of Sesame Street’s promotion of autism acceptance is a line of Julia dolls. As an autistic person who grew up watching Sesame Street, I am thrilled to have the privilege to review a toy of an autistic character, and I am thankful to Hasbro for providing me with a toy of my own.

The doll looks just like the character from the television show. She has the same orange hair, green eyes, yellow skin, big and happy mouth, pink dress, green pants, and black shoes. The doll is made of polyester and filled with polyester fibers and stiffener. The mouth is kept wide open with plastic inserts. She has mobile ears, legs, arms, and neck.

Autistic people participate in something called “stimming.” Stimming can involve rocking back and forth, flapping hands, or fidgeting with something in our hands among other things and is a response to our sensory environment and way to communicate. As such, it is important that the toys we provide for autistic children are sensory-inclusive. The type of polyester used for Julia’s hair on this doll was pleasing for me to play with, but the type of polyester used on the rest of the doll was uncomfortable, especially for the dress which is loose on the doll and something that autistic children might want to stim with. As pleasing as the fabric on the hair was, I was disappointed to find that the hair was not stringy. Some autistic people like to stim with stringy things, and it would have been a good element to the doll if the hair was soft and stringy.

I also found it perplexing to have the mouth fixed wide open with plastic inserts because it might confuse some autistic children about why they can’t close Julia’s mouth. It would also be a good idea to have Julia’s nose be a fuzzy ball instead of being flat to give autistic children another part of Julia to stim with.

Overall, I’m very pleased that Sesame Street is not only including an autistic character but is also making toys that children who are autistic and not autistic can play with. This will help autistic children learn that they are celebrated, and it will help children who are not autistic learn to include autistic people as our friends.