Sesame Street debuts new character with autism

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Julia started appearing online in e-books and digital illustrations as part of the initiativeSesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.

Meet Julia, a new Muppet with orange hair and green eyes, who will join Big Bird Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Cookie Monster on TV show Sesame Street soon. "Basically, in terms of vulnerable families, we're looking at families who may have particular stressors in their lives that are impacting their young children", Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for USA social impact at parent company Sesame Workshop, explained. "We're modelling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share".

Sesame Street will air the special episode "Meet Julia" Monday, April 10 on HBO and PBS KIDS.

Clips from her debut show depict Julia in normal situations, where she might not answer a new friend right away, but someone who knows Julia explains the situation to the other characters. "It's really meaningful to see her there, singing with Elmo, Big Bird and all the other characters".

She's "Sesame Street's" newest neighbor and her autism diagnosis affects her communication and social skills and causes some abnormal behavioral interests. Sesame Workshop, the parent company of Sesame Street, has been developing the character for about three years.

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One in every 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and Sesame Street wishes to explain the topic to a young audience.

In her first episode, Julia demonstrates that all it takes is understanding to make friends with someone on the autism spectrum.

"I thought that maybe she didn't like me", Big Bird told 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl.

"It's tricky because autism is not one thing", said Christine Ferraro, a writer for the series. The team who created Julia spent years talking to families who had children with autism in order to make the depiction as authentic as possible. His son, who has autism, watched the show as a child.

Bringing Julia to life as a Sesame Street Muppet is the centerpiece of all of our new materials to support families of children with autism.