Autism

Sesame Street Just Introduced Julia, a Sweet New Muppet with Autism

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(Photo: Sesame Street Workshop)

Children with autism are five times more likely to be bullied than their peers without autism, and an estimated one in 68 children in the U.S. is living with autism, according to the CDC. That is a lot of kids out there in danger of being picked on, bullied, or misunderstood. For decades, Sesame Street has been tackling the ways we are all different, so it makes good sense that it has launched a new autism awareness initiative, complete with a cute new Muppet named Julia, who is a little girl who has autism.

The Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative launched this week with the goal of de-stigmatizing autism and helping small children between the ages of two and five understand a little bit more about what autism means. It is a great and timely move that could go a long way towards helping kids with autism, and their parents, and their friends.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that its severity and impact on a person’s daily life vary a lot on a case by case basis. Not all children with autism can speak, but Julia is verbal. She plays with Elmo and all the other kids and is designed to show children the ways kids with autism are just like them, even if there might be ways she expresses herself differently. Julia might clap her hands when she’s excited, or avoid making eye contact, but she still wants to play with the other kids.

Julia is a great addition to Sesame Street, and watching her and her friends can help children to become more empathetic when they see, for example, ways that making small accommodations to the way things are done can help Julia.

“Almost every school and university in the country has students with autism,” the initiative’s website explains. “While the diagnosis is common, public understanding of autism is not. The lack of understanding around the condition contributes to discrimination, verbal abuse, even physical violence. A recent study reveals that children with autism are five times more likely to be bullied than their peers—treatment no child should endure. 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.”

According to She Knows, See Amazing is a digital initiative, so Julia is not yet scheduled to appear on television. She does appear on an app and on games and stories on the See Amazing website, and in digital and printed storybooks.