Anne Sabagh is a Certified Life Coach at MySpectrum Counseling & Coaching. Here, she shares a part of her journey in relation to Julia in Sesame Street.
“As a life coach who is a passionate mental health advocate, I work hard to take the stigma out of having and living with mental health conditions or developmental delays; so when I was first introduced to Julia, one of the newest character on Sesame Street, who is autistic, and saw her portrayed in such a positive light, I was deeply moved and grateful.
I have always felt “different” all my life, and have learned some of the reasons why over the years; one being that I have always had high anxiety. Through talk therapy and anti-anxiety medication that I have taken since I was diagnosed in 2001, as well as through coping mechanisms that help to lessen my anxiety, like planning ahead and using a paper planner every day to help me know what is on my schedule, I have learned to live and thrive, despite having anxiety.
At the end of 2018, I came to learn that I am on the autism spectrum. This realization was a major relief for me, as it explained so well how I experience the world and the different things I did as a child and do as an adult that are different from those who are neurotypical. Simultaneously, it made me wish I would have known this so long ago when I was growing up, but autism spectrum was not listed in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual used by psychologists to diagnose those with developmental and mental health concerns), until 1994, at which time, I had already moved out on my own and was in college.
Growing up, because I did not have these diagnoses, life could be very difficult to say the least. Certainly those who are neurotypical have difficulty in life as well, but it seemed like I was experiencing major difficulties, and often, did not know why. I felt like I was trying as hard as I could to fit into society, go to school and work, but I so often felt like most others were having a much easier time than I was doing everyday things that make up life. So often I was told by well meaning parents and teachers that I just needed to apply myself or try harder. This confounded me because I was already trying extremely hard, but still having so much difficulty.
Though Julia was introduced on Sesame Street in 2017, I did not discover her until right before Christmas of 2018 when I went to visit my best friend. He told me about her and showed me a Julia doll he had just gotten, and said she was an autistic Muppet on Sesame Street. I hugged the sweet Julia doll as soon as he showed her to me. She was just beautiful. The same evening, I went home and looked up Julia to see if I could find a clip of her on Sesame Street. I found the clip of her arrival on Sesame Street in this link https://autism.sesamestreet.org/video/meet-julia and it was wonderful! I was so grateful to know she was created and is on one of my favorite TV shows from childhood, and portraying autism in a positive way. Seeing this clip helped to heal my childhood self in a very profound way; when I saw how Alan knew exactly how to help Julia when she was upset by the loud noise from the siren that passed by, and when Elmo and Abby Cadabby assured Big Bird that all was okay and that Julia would be back to play, and just needed to take breaks sometimes when she felt overwhelmed by sensory overload that often accompanies autism. In this 10 minute clip introducing Julia, it normalized autism as just simply another way of experiencing the world, instead of a disorder. It showed that other children, in this case, Elmo and Abby Cadabby, could understand that Julia just did some things differently perhaps than they did, but that it was perfectly okay. Alan’s understanding of how to help Julia was also very touching to me, as when I was in distress, especially when I was little, from similar type events, such as loud noise, crowded spaces, etc; most people did not know how to help me or what to do with me; and so I felt terribly misunderstood, like there was something wrong with me.
My best friend shared with me that it’s like if all your life you’re trying to reach the jar on the top shelf, and everyone says you just need to try harder, and then someone finally says, “You’re certainly trying hard enough, but you’re short. Just use a ladder.” Hearing this, I felt so validated, and so relieved that there was indeed, nothing wrong with me. I was just simply not neurotypical, but on the autism spectrum, and thus, just did things a little differently than others. This is what I want those who are on the spectrum, or feel different in some way to realize; that we can do everything; we just need to do things in a different way than our neurotypical counterparts! 🙂
For the holidays that year, I received my very own Julia doll from my best friend. Being introduced to Julia was one of the best presents I have ever received.
I so wish I had a Muppet like Julia when I was growing up, but I am just grateful she was created and is here now!
I met a beautiful young woman at the end of 2018 as well. She was just 22 years of age, but clearly wise beyond her years, and said, “My motto is: Be the person you needed when you were a child”. What a wonderful motto to live by! I am living this motto in the coaching work I do, and I invite you to adopt it as your motto as well!
Thank you Julia, for being who I needed as a child, and as an adult, and for helping me to realize that we are all different and special, and that we are all able to beneficially contribute to the world.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Anne for yourself or a loved one, please give us a call: 804-924-2236. Anne’s bio can also be found here.