Look who just moved in to Sesame Street: Julia, Sesame Street’s first character with autism. Julia the Muppet joins the folks of the 45-year-old series, lauded by HBO CEO Richard Plepler as "the most important preschool education program in the history of television," in an effort to destigmatize autism.
Julia can be found on one of Sesame Street’s apps in Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, a part of an app which uses videos, story books, and other visual elements to help autistic children and their families with day-to-day activities. Story cards, one of the apps digital elements, has Julia talking more about herself.
Sesame Street executive Sherrie Westin told People, "Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally. We want parents and children to understand that autism isn't an uncomfortable topic."
One of the goals of the app and the See Amazing in All Children initiative is to "create greater awareness and empathy," according to Westin. This is especially necessary, said Senior Vice President of U.S. social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, because children with autism are reportedly five times likelier to be bullied. "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," said Betancourt.
Sesame Street is additionally raising awareness with the hashtag #SeeAmazing and "The Amazing Song."