Well, this makes us totally happy. “Sesame Street” just made history with the creation of their new muppet, Julia, who is the first character on the show with autism. Launched just this morning, “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children“ seeks to reduce “the stigma of autism,” which we’re all about.
The initiative was created for families with children ages 2 to 5, which includes a free app that incorporates video, digital story cards designed to make daily life tasks easier for those with autism, and storybook materials for organizations and families. These materials are intended to make children with autism feel included and understood. For instance, in the storybooks, Julia describes to her friends how she likes to play a little differently from them.
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt explained to PEOPLE why this is so crucial:
“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. It makes children more comfortable and therefore more inclusive.”
Why the digital format? Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy, explains:
“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.
If you’re five years old, and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you may think that child doesn’t want to play with you. But that’s not the case. We want to create greater awareness and empathy.”
Don’t forget to watching the show’s “The Amazing Song” video below, which is part of their new social media initiative #SeeAmazing to spread awareness.