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Sesame Street introduces Julia, its first character with autism

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Marybeth Nelson

There’s a new Muppet on her way to where the air is sweet: Julia, the first Sesame Street character with autism, has joined the colorful muppet cast as part of Sesame Workshop’s new initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.

“Children with autism are five times more likely to get bullied,” senior vice president of U.S. social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, told People. “Our goal is bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences.”

The nationwide initiative, which is aimed at communities with children ages 2 to 5, “offers families ways to overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities. At the same time, the project fosters an affirming narrative around autism for all families and kids,” according to its website.

“We want parents and children to understand that autism isn’t an uncomfortable topic,” Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy, told People. “We want to create greater awareness and empathy.”

Julia is a digital character — “families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content,” Westin explained — and will be included in the initiative’s storybooks, videos, and free app, all of which explain autism from the perspective of a child with autism.

“When we explain from a child’s point of view that there are certain behaviors, such as slapping their hands or making noises, to express excitement or unhappiness, it helps younger children to understand how to interact with their autistic peers,” Dr. Betancourt said. “It makes children more comfortable and therefore more inclusive.”

The initiative has also created a hashtag, #SeeAmazing, to help create awareness on social media. “Everyone is touched by autism,” Dr. Betancourt said, “and by creating Julia, Sesame is bringing children together.”

For the full story, head to People