Sesame Street has introduced its first character with Autism to help de-stigmatise Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The character’s name is Julia and she is part of the new “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” initiative. This initiative also includes the launch of a free application, which incorporates a range of multimedia avenues such as storybooks and video to assist families and children who have autism with day-to-day tasks.
“Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally,” executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy, Sherrie Westin, told People. “We want parents and children to understand that autism isn’t an uncomfortable topic.”
The story book introduces the character of Julia and she goes on to explain how she plays a little differently to other children. She talks about how children may not make eye contact and raises awareness that this is not because they do not want to play and engage with other children. This teaches children that even if these children may not look like they want to engage that this is not the case.
The ultimate aim of the program is to create greater awareness and empathy in order to de-stigmatise autism, reduce bullying and educate children about how autistic children are no different from other normally developing children they engage with everyday. Encouraging children to approach Autistic children and engage with them in the same way they would engage with other children, Sesame Street shows how some children reads social cues in a different way.
“Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences,” says senior vice president of U.S. social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt. “Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group.”