Sesame Street to welcome Muppet with autism

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Source:

Associated Press

Folks on Sesame Street have a way of making everyone feel accepted.

Julia, a new autistic muppet character will make her debut on the 47th Season of "Sesame Street".

Source: Associated Press

That certainly goes for Julia, a Muppet youngster with blazing red hair, bright green eyes and autism.

Rather than being treated like an outsider, which too often is the plight of kids on the spectrum, Julia is one of the gang.

In the scene, being taped for airing next season, Julia is about to play a game with Oscar, Abby and Grover who have been challenged to spot objects shaped like squares or circles or triangles.

"You're lucky," says Abby to Grover. "You have Julia on your team, and she is really good at finding shapes!"

With that, they skedaddle, an exit that calls for the six Muppeteers squatted out of sight below them to scramble accordingly.

Joining her pals, Julia takes off hunting.

For more than a year, Julia has existed in print and digital illustrations as the centrepiece of a multifaceted initiative by Sesame Workshop called "Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children."

The goal is to promote a better understanding of what the Autism Speaks advocacy group describes as "a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences."

She makes her TV debut on "Sesame Street" in the "Meet Julia" episode airing April 10 on both PBS and HBO. 

Developing Julia and all the other components of this campaign has required years of consultation with organisations, experts and families within the autism community, according to Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior vice president of US Social Impact.

"In the US, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder," she says.

"We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children. We're modelling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share."

Julia is at the heart of this effort.

But while she represents the full range of children on the spectrum, she isn't meant to typify each one of them: "Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we're looking at children with autism," Betancourt says.

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