Alex Weiher – First off…a huge Insta-Grow Pill Animal-sized THANK YOU to The Muppet Mindset for letting me guest write! This is honestly such a huge honor. After being a Muppet lover for over half my life, I feel like I’m finally up there with the big dogs!
Second off, I’m a total stranger to most of you so why don’t we get to know me a bit? This is me.
My name is Alex. I am days away from my 20th birthday and I like to think of myself as the Muppets biggest fan. I come from a smallish town in northwestern Oregon and I’m currently a sophomore at Oregon State University where I’m studying to be a veterinarian.
I fell in love with the Muppets at the age of 7 when I watched “Muppets From Space” for the first time (to this day it is still my all-time favorite and I do not understand what everyone’s beef with it is!), which cemented both my love of Muppets and Gonzo as my favorite character.
And I may have had a crush on Gonzo. And I may have been insanely jealous of Camilla. And I may have written in my diary that he was my “fionsay”. And I may own an autographed photo. But don’t you dare tell anyone.
Meeting the Muppets has always been at the top of my bucket list; I don’t know when it’ll happen, but my fingers and thumbs are always crossed. But I’m going to be very honest about this…
I have never liked Sesame Street. And I’m not ashamed about that either! I was a bit of an advanced child so Sesame Street was always a little… Below my level.
However, being immersed in the Muppet world, Sesame Street is prevalent. As such, news of a certain new character arriving on the longest street in the world did not escape me. And what she represents has been a huge part of my life.
So, I gave in and watched the 10 minute clip of her debut. And I love her!
Julia is one of the most important, if not the most important, characters ever added to the ever-diverse Sesame Street family and they couldn’t have portrayed her more perfectly. She doesn’t talk as much as the others and at times she may seem like she doesn’t want to be involved in what’s going on. But when given a chance, she’s just like the other kids; she wants to have fun too!
My favorite part in particular (and probably the most crucial thing about Julia’s presence) is when Alan explains to Big Bird what autism is and he begins his explanation with “For Julia, it means…”
I cannot stress how important that is enough. Autism is a vast spectrum, and while challenges kids with autism face may be similar (such as sensory and socialization), they all manifest in different ways for different kids with different types of autism. While Julia is sort of meant to be a “generalized” version of the disorder, they also gave her personality traits and challenges that are unique to her in order to exemplify the true variety of autism.
So for Julia, autism means that she flaps her hands when she’s excited, she doesn’t always answer right away when you speak to her, and when her senses go into overload she needs a little break.
For me, autism means that sometimes I knock the heels of my hands together when I’m excited, I sometimes have trouble being around other people (even close friends), I seem to hear loud noises twice as loud, and when I like things (like the Muppets) I really like them!
Oh yeah, I’m on the spectrum. Did I forget to mention that?
Are you looking at me differently now?
It’s okay if you do. I want you to! Just like Julia, I want you to see how different I am. Because different is, as the Sesame Street autism initiative says, amazing!
Though I wasn’t nonverbal, I see little Alex in Julia. I see the little girl whose teachers thought she was “disrespectful” because they had to remind her to maintain eye contact every six seconds. I see the little girl who held her ears and screamed during the second grade science experiment with balloon popping. I see the little girl whose hands just liked to do their own thing, and she didn’t care who stared. I see the creative and imaginative little girl who liked to play with her friends but once in a while just needed a break to be by herself.
Julia is not like every child with autism, but in her own unique ways, she is every child with autism; finding her voice, showing her potential in little ways every day, and dealing with the challenges the other kids don’t face in ways that work for her.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Jules. I’m sending you hugs and hand flaps all the way from Oregon!