‘Sesame Street’ Introduces New Character with Autism

Move over, Elmo, there’s a new muppet in town. Sesame Workshop’s fuzzy new friend is Julia, and she has autism.

The new initiative, “Sesame Street And Autism: See Amazing In All Children,” was launched Wednesday, October 21, 2015, in hopes of bringing awareness to autism and the stigma it carries. The nationwide initiative was designed for children ages 2 to 5, and it was developed with input from parents, people who serve the autism community, and people with autism.

“Children with autism are five times more likely to get bullied, and with one in 68 children having autism, that’s a lot of bullying,” Jeanette Betancourt, Ed.D, senior vice president of community and family engagement at Sesame Workshop, told People. “Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences. Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group.”

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In order to make it more accessible, the autism initiative comes with a free app with videos and stories designed to make life easier for friends and family of people with autism. “Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally,” added  Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop.

Cuddly, green-eyed Julia may do things a little differently — in the new online storybook, “We’re Amazing 1, 2, 3,” Elmo points out that sometimes he has to talk to Julia using fewer words, and that she may not always make eye contact — but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be your friend.

To get the word out, the creators of “Sesame Street” are blasting social media with #SeeAmazing in hopes of getting people share their own stories, as well as keep the conversation about autism alive.

Photo: Marybeth Nelson/ Sesame Workshop