Meet Julia—Sesame Street’s First Muppet on the Autism Spectrum

The iconic children’s show introduces a new character as part of their just launched #SeeAmazing initiative.

Marybeth Nelson / Sesame Street

After more than 40 years on the air, Sesame Street this week unveiled its newest character: Julia, the show’s first Muppet with autism. Julia joins Grover, Elmo, and the rest of the Sesame Street gang as part of the just-launched See Amazing in All Children initiative (and its accompanying #SeeAmazing hastag), designed by Sesame Workshop to provide a safe and positive educational space for children on the autism spectrum, as well as for their friends and families.

Given the prevalence of autism in children across the United States—1:68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and an absence of comprehensive understanding in many communities as to what autism is and what it may entail, Sesame Street’s initiative is designed to foster “an affirming narrative around autism for all families and kids,” as well as “[offer] families ways to overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities.”

Julia’s first appearance comes in We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!, a picture book found on the See Amazing website. In it, she plays with fellow muppets Elmo and Abby Cadabby while they learn about autism. Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy, explained to People:

“Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally. We want parents and children to understand that autism isn't an uncomfortable topic.”

In addition to the book, See Amazing features digital flashcards that help children on the autism spectrum learn routines for daily events such as brushing teeth, visiting restaurants, and going to sleep. Similarly, there are educational resources for families and friends of autistic children, to help them create a healthy and happy environment for everyone. And, this being Sesame Street, there’s singing, of course:

Ultimately, the goal of See Amazing is to highlight the commonalities that exist among kids everywhere, regardless of whether, and where, they may reside on the autism spectrum. Julia offers a friendly Muppet face for children who might otherwise be confused or scared by what they don’t understand about the condition. As the initiative explains on its website:

While the differences between people with autism and their peers may seem significant, children share something far more important: unique qualities and talents that make the world an interesting place.

[via people]

Julian Meehan

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