New muppet makes headlines: “Sesame Street” shines spotlight on children with physical disabilities

The prized television show “Sesame Street” introduces new characters who will represent millions of kids around the world.

Allisa Pandit

The prized television show “Sesame Street” introduces new characters who will represent millions of kids around the world.

Lauren Puthoff, Opinion Editor

Ever since “Sesame Street” premiered in 1969, it has taken the world by storm and become a staple television show in every household. This educational series has helped children learn new information before they even enter a school, while teaching them life skills in an enjoyable way. In the past decade, PBS has introduced numerous new muppets to showcase values of diversity and inclusion. 

With well-known characters such as Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Abby Cadaby and countless others, the company has recently added new faces to the place known for its sunny days and sweet air. The newest additions to the Muppet family include Julia, who has Autism, Wes, who speaks about racial-literacy, Ji-Young, who is the first Asian-American character to ever be on the show and Ameera, who has a spinal cord injury. 

Ameera is an exuberant 8-year-old-girl who has a strong passion for science, technology and basketball. When she is not testing out a new idea through a science experiment, she is found shooting hoops with her friends or thinking of a new way to make everyone laugh. Due to her spinal cord injury, she relies on her vibrant purple wheelchair or her crutches to move around. She does not let her disability stop her from being the natural born leader and comedian she is. 

Senior Gabby Lodico was born with Spina Bifida, a condition where one part of the spine is not connected to the other. “When I was born, I had to have surgery to reconnect my spine, and as a result of my spine not being connected, I am only able to take a couple of steps, while other times I use a wheelchair.” she explained. “As I was growing up, there were not a lot of characters on TV that used a wheelchair, but nowadays I have seen more representation for the wheelchair community.” 

PBS has always been a leading channel of diversity, kindness and inclusion for kids of all backgrounds. By adding Ameera, they are showing the world that those with physical disabilities are not so different from able-bodied individuals.

“With different media outlets and TV companies creating a more representative cast, it will have a lasting impact on generations to come. Kids will learn how to treat others with respect and that our differences do not define us,” Lodico commented. 

The strides taken to create an inclusive television show that features characters from all walks of life will leave a lasting memory for the viewers. 

On top of creating a positive environment for children, PBS has the goal to reach and connect with viewers around the world. 

Ameera made her debut to the world in April 2022 on “Ahlan Simsim,” the version of “Sesame Street” that airs in North Africa and the Middle East which focuses on issues faced by refugees. 

Although Ameera is not a refugee, she will help to tell the story of many displaced children who are going through international crises. She will highlight the need for quick and creative learning environments during times of distress, while also providing a positive outlet for anxiety and stress. Her segments will inspire children to overcome adversity and promote resilience, building important foundational skills that will last a lifetime.

Not only is Ameera representing children with disabilities and supporting displaced children, but she is also inspiring young girls through her activism in STEM. She defies gender stereotypes via her passion in science and constantly wanting to grow her knowledge.

Junior Aarya Joshi is a part of an all-girls robotics team that works to inspire other girls to try things that are against the social norm. “When I was younger, I was surrounded by the stereotype that all girls were ditzy, loved the color pink, enjoyed shopping and they were unable to do traditional ‘boy things’ like build or code,” she described. “It’s really refreshing to see modern [shows] encouraging women to do something that used to be ‘beyond’ our stereotype, not to mention seeing more people start something they love and have a passion for.”

The fondness between a child and a hobby is what drives them to go against social stereotypes and be who they want to be. By representing different types of people in children’s shows, it allows all kids to have a sense of belonging. 

Although Ameera has only been around for a little over a month, she has made a vast impact on millions of children who may or may not relate to her. 

PBS and “Sesame Street” are continuously adding to their diverse cast to help children across the world feel represented and important. With a little over half a dozen new and diverse Muppets, they are making great strides towards inclusion for a wide variety of people.