By Scott Murray
In the last nine years, I've consistently included podcast episodes about Jim Henson. I cannot imagine my childhood without his genius, entertaining and educational work. The attachments and memories of The Muppets and Sesame Street are still with me to this day.
One of the many genius things about Jim's imagination and creativity was the ability to combine entertainment with education. Granted, many people can effectively do that today, but in Jim's day - he broke the code for simultaneously achieving it with children AND adults. After Jim tragically passed away, the process of continuing his traditions was going to be challenging.
However, one of the powerful ways Sesame Street continued his mission to educate children and adults was the creation of Julia - a Muppet with autism. The importance of her presence is obvious when it comes to children. Julia helps them better understand someone like Julia while showing how people can treat her with compassion, understanding and inclusion. Yet, adults or other parents can benefit from watching Julia as well.
Before getting the opportunity to bring Julia to life, performer Stacey Gordon worked as a habilitator (not rehabilitator) for families with special needs children, including those with autism. One particular job required her to work 46 hours a week. So, when her son was diagnosed with autism, she was prepared, but that didn't mean certain challenges would be any easier.
Part of her experience as a parent has included watching kids and adults respond to her son in disappointing and hurtful ways. On the other hand, she has a lot of pride in the brilliance and "superpowers" that he possesses.
When you combine this experience with her history in puppetry, you have someone who was born to bring Julia to life.
Autism is also an important part of our lives. My wife's brother Zac is autistic, and I've watched him accomplish so many amazing things in the past 20 years.
September 24th is Jim Henson's birthday. So, that week's episode will be dedicated to him, his work and his legacy. I'm honored to announce that Stacey Gordon will be our special guest on the show. Joe Hennes (Tough Pigs) will also be on to discuss memories of Jim Henson.
All about nerd culture and the show.